Defense Minister Ehud Barak said during a visit to the US along with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Monday that the issues facing Israel and the Palestinians are "a test to the leaders of the Palestinian Authority and to all leaders of the region."
"Israel is doing everything in its power to resume peace talks. Israel must make the utmost effort to reach peace with its neighbors," said Barak, adding that it is essential that the US and its president, Barack Obama, commit to the peace process.
"The US is the world's leading superpower and Obama's presidency offers a rare opportunity to achieve peace. All other alternatives would be worse," the defense minister said.
Barak was speaking after PA President Mahmoud Abbas announced he would not run in the upcoming Palestinian elections.
During a meeting with US Defense Secretary Robert Gates later Monday, Barak said "the strategic understanding with the United States and the cooperation on intelligence matters are cornerstones of Israel's security."
Barak updated Gates on the recent capture armaments on board the Francop cargo ship and on the necessity to tighten cooperation on the issue of weapons smuggling following reports that Hamas in the Gaza Strip recently tested rockets capable of reaching Tel Aviv. They also spoke of international efforts to curb Iran's nuclear and military buildup.
The defense minister then thanked Gates for the US aid and cooperation in the advancement of a multi-layered missile defense system to protect Israel from long range missile attacks.
Barak was also expected to meet with Dennis Ross and with the American Middle East envoy George Mitchell.
Later in the day, Defense Minister Ehud Barak planned to address the GA. He is in Washington meeting with senior government and defense officials at a time when intense US efforts to revive the stalled peace process have come to naught.
In advance of that speech he issued statements to the media, in which he lauded US regional efforts by stating that America had a critical role to play in advancing the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians.
"It's essential to mobilize US President Barack Obama and the United States toward this effort to open up a dialogue with the Palestinians," said Barak.
The White House did not respond to a request for comment on Barak's White House meetings.
Hilary Leila Krieger and E.B. Solomont, Jpost correspondents in Washington, contributed to this report.