Israel must resume peace talks - US

2011-12-03 09:27

Washington - US defence secretary Leon Panetta on Friday urged Israel to get back to the "damn" negotiating table with Palestinians and take steps to address what he described as the Jewish state's growing isolation in the Middle East.

Panetta, addressing a forum in Washington, also made one of his most extensive arguments to date against any imminent military action against Iran over its nuclear programme, saying he was convinced that sanctions and diplomatic pressure were working.

"You always have the last resort ... of military action. But it must be the last resort, not the first," Panetta said.

Militarily strong, Israel is battling a diplomatic storm as Arab uprisings upset once-stable relationships in the Middle East. But Panetta warned Israel against viewing uprisings like the one in Egypt that toppled president Hosni Mubarak as an excuse to enter a defensive crouch.

"I understand the view that this is not the time to pursue peace, and that the Arab awakening further imperils the dream of a safe and secure, Jewish and democratic Israel. But I disagree with that view," Panetta said.

Peace talks

He said Israel needed to take risks, including by breathing new life into moribund peace talks with Palestinians. When asked by a moderator what steps Israel needed to take to pursue peace, Panetta said: "Just get to the damn table."

"The problem right now is we can't get 'em to the damn table, to at least sit down and begin to discuss their differences," Panetta said.

Panetta said the United States would safeguard Israel's security, ensure regional stability and prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon - a goal Tehran denies having.

"Israel, too, has a responsibility to pursue these shared goals - to build regional support for Israeli and United States' security objectives," Panetta said.

"I believe security is dependent on a strong military but it is also dependent on strong diplomacy. And unfortunately, over the past year, we've seen Israel's isolation from its traditional security partners in the region grow."

Panetta suggested that Israel reach out and mend fences with countries like Turkey, Egypt and Jordan which "share an interest in regional stability."

Turkey was the first Muslim state to recognise Israel, in 1949, but relations worsened last year when Israeli commandos boarded an aid flotilla challenging a naval blockade of the Palestinian enclave of Gaza and killing nine Turks in ensuing clashes.

"It is in Israel's interest, Turkey's interest, and US interest for Israel to reconcile with Turkey, and both Turkey and Israel need to do more to put their relationship back on track," Panetta said.

Israel is closely watching developments in Egypt, whose new rulers may be more susceptible to widespread anti-Israeli sentiment than under Mubarak.

Egyptians voted on Friday in the opening round of the country's first free election in six decades. The Muslim Brotherhood's party and its ultra-conservative Salafi rivals looked set to top the polls.

But Panetta said the best course for the United States and the international community was to continue to put pressure on Egypt to follow through with transition to democracy and ensure any future government stands by its peace treaty with Israel.


Turning to Iran, Panetta used some of his strongest language yet to explain US concerns about any military strike against Iran over its nuclear programme - which the West believes is aimed at an atomic bomb. Tehran denies this, saying its uranium enrichment is entirely peaceful.

Panetta said a strike could disrupt the already fragile economies of Europe and the United States, trigger Iranian retaliation against US forces, and ultimately spark a popular backlash in Iran that would bolster its rulers.

It also may not be effective. Panetta cited estimates from Israelis that a strike might set back Iran's nuclear programme by one to two years "at best."

He finally warned about engulfing the region in war.

"Lastly I think the consequence could be that we would have an escalation that would take place that would not only involve many lives, but I think could consume the Middle East in confrontation and conflict that we would regret," he said.

  • Ian - 2011-12-03 09:33

    talk talk talk, Israel is more than ready to talk, except when we do come to the table and finnish talks, the first thing you barbarians do is fire rockets into Israel so whats the fffng point

      Alan - 2011-12-03 10:00

      Yes Fidel, every settler carries a gun. I notice you Israel critics were very hushed on the rocket attack earlier this week.

      Fidel - 2011-12-03 10:18

      If someone was stealing my land, I'd resist forcefully, in whatever manner I could, rather than standing outside the thief's office with a placard for the next 50 years.

      Gollum - 2011-12-03 11:39

      Sincerity cannot be forced.

      cameronrh1 - 2011-12-03 11:59

      @Fidel if it was not for the Israeli and US aid the PLO receives, the PLO and its people would not excist as they did not excist prior to 1967. This whole notion of there being a Palestine is a recent invention - 1967 to be exact. The homeland of the so-called Palestinians is not Israel. The historical homelands of these nomadic Arabs (Ottomans and Turks) are Jordan, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia, and approximately 80% of the Jordanian population is made up of Palestinians.

      Malcolm - 2011-12-03 12:11

      @Fidel: If Arabs stop attacking Israel peace will be created naturally, because history informs us that Arabs are the aggressors and Israeli’s are defenders and retaliators. Also, the “bloody” wall you speak of has saved a great number of Israeli civilians from Palestinian terrorism; proven by a significant reduction in incidents of suicide bombings since construction. Furthermore, only 10% of the barrier is a concrete wall (mainly in the West Bank) while 90% is a fence.

      Fidel - 2011-12-03 12:17

      @Cameron And the homeland of the Khazar and Ashkenazi is Poland and Russia. Mark Regev can return to Australia and Avigdor Lieberman can return to Moldova. There was no country called Kosovo in 1990 but there were people living there. There was also no country called S. Sudan or Libya in 1900 but there were also people living there. I could go on and on.

      Fidel - 2011-12-03 12:39

      @Malcolm Zionism and peace are incompatible.

      Dirk - 2011-12-03 15:01

      Israel should NOT allow the US to dictate to them. They cannot be trusted with Israels security. If they cannot destroy the facilities now, repeat the exercise every time they do become a threat. God bless Israel.

      Dirk - 2011-12-03 20:03

      You should have seen how quite they were after an Iranian actress was sentenced to 90 lashes with a whip, for simply---acting

      Barry - 2011-12-04 08:35

      When in Rome...

  • David Bennett - 2011-12-03 09:45

    You can't talk to people that refuse to talk to you. The whole strategy of the Arabs is to isolate Israel. Even when they were talking, you have other groups sponsored by the Iranians such as Hamas and Hizballah, who are doing everything to derail those talks. The only compromise that these people are prepared to make is that the Jews mustn't be in the Middle East, and then they won't kill them. They will never accept that Israel has a right to exist as a Jewish state. If only if the world didn't need petrol as we do.

      Fidel - 2011-12-03 09:56

      Why are the Israelis refusing to stop settlement expansions? Prof Juan Cole has extracted the quote from Zippy Livni which confirms what everybody thought: “Israel takes more land [so] that the Palestinian state will be impossible . . . the Israel policy is to take more and more land day after day and that at the end of the day we’ll say that is impossible, we already have the land and we cannot create the state”. She conceded that it had been “the policy of the government for a really long time”. Israel has always sought to pretend it is interested in a two state solution whilst doing everything to make that impossible. It is obvious to anybody to see the total subjugation of the Palestinian lands to Israeli control. The only logical conclusion to this determination of Israel is for the Palestinians to lobby for full democratic and civil rights, with equality for all citizens, inside Israel, since that is where they effectively are. Israel has made a one state solution the only option. Otherwise, of course, we have to conclude that they are intent on building an apartheid state in which Palestinians live but have no rights whatsoever - property, land or human rights. The evidence is all over the West Bank and in the actions of the IDF and the settlers.

      Ian - 2011-12-03 09:59

      everyone knows that but try telling that to that troll above fidel or should i say fiddle as all that is all him and his ilk are capable of

      Fidel - 2011-12-03 10:19

      You should start drinking a bit later!

      Anthony - 2011-12-03 10:45

      BUT it,s still there land.

      Fidel - 2011-12-03 10:54

      Learn to write English before you post. It is my third language. Analyse the apostrophe with "it's" and then come back here when you have reached a linguistic level in your mother tongue which would occasion the notion you are a....person....worth the time and space you occupy. That would be all.

      Malcolm - 2011-12-03 12:27

      Palestinians were given the Gaza Strip as a free gift from Israel in exchange for peace. Israel went to great expense and untold sacrifices by their own people to hand this land over. In return these Palestinians continue to aim rockets at ordinary people with the wilful intention to slaughter these defenceless men women and children. The Palestinians accepted Gaza with a hidden agenda of treacherous proportions, which was confirmed by immediately reneging on their promises. Therefore, giving the West Bank to the Palestinians is simply out of the question.

      Fidel - 2011-12-03 12:37

      Africans were given the Bantustants as a free gift from The SA government in exchange for peace. Pre-1994 SA went to great expense and untold sacrifices by their own people to hand this land over. In return the ANC military wing continued to plant bombs in pubs at ordinary people with the wilful intention to slaughter the security apparatus (ala Sharpville). The Africans accepted the bantustans with a hidden agenda of treacherous proportions, which was confirmed by immediately reneging on their promises (Giving refuge to MK guerillas). Therefore, giving the rest of SA to the Africans wss simply out of the question.

      Dirk - 2011-12-03 20:06

      I noticed that Ali Baba and his 40 robed and bearded friends have passed by here, all lending support to the murderous and corrupt Philistines.

  • Bobo - 2011-12-03 10:39

    Israel : Don`t give in to negotiations... America don`t worry...Israel is behind you !

      Fidel - 2011-12-03 11:27

      How can Israel be "behind" America when all that sustains the artificial Israeli economy is US aid totalling $6 billion annually in grants and military equipment,not forgetting the reparations and technological transfers that Germany has been forced to pay for the last 50 years.

  • Bobo - 2011-12-03 12:58

    Maybe that`s exatcly why they will always be behind America. You will find it interesting to know that other countries also contribute in the form of military/financial support behind the scenes.That leaves us with the question... What possibly can Israel have that other countries so saught after ? infertile land - I don`t think so.

  • Jaba - 2011-12-04 20:07

    Arabs only want war - they know no peace... religion of peace - whateva. proof is in the pudding... middle east is in a sate of war - muslims are killing muslims everywhere in the middle east - what makes anyone think they will ever want peace with a few jews.

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