Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is seeking the support of major international leaders for Israel's military presence in the Jordan Valley, a senior official in the Prime Minister's Office said yesterday.
The campaign comes amid a renewed push for a peace deal with the Palestinians, who oppose letting Israel keep its military along the border with Jordan after a peace deal.
"It's important that we reach an agreement with the most influential countries," the PMO official said. "It's possible."
Netanyahu began raising the issue last week in meetings with European foreign ministers and U.S. envoys Dennis Ross and Frederick Hoff, and has discussed it with Chilean President Sebastian Pinera and Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd this week.
"The IDF must be deployed along the Jordan Valley," Netanyahu said yesterday during a tour of the area.
He said the Israel Defense Forces must maintain its presence along the length of the Jordan Valley in any future peace arrangement reached with the Palestinians, as a safeguard against rocket attacks.
The Jordan River is Israel's security border, Netanyahu told soldiers there.
"Israel's line of defense begins here," he said. "If rockets and missiles break out here, they will reach Tel Aviv, Haifa and all over the country."
Netanyahu said that though there is no alternative to the IDF's defense of the Jordan Valley, he was not dictating the precise deployment of troops there, saying that would be determined in negotiations.
In his talks with the U.S. envoys, Netanyahu also began exploring the possibility of increased U.S. security assistance if a peace deal with the Palestinians goes through.
Government officials said that Israel expects the international community to help it pay for increased security needs if a deal is reached and that Netanyahu has decided to increase defense spending in the next state budget.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak is floating the idea of seeking an additional $20 billion in security assistance from the United States.