'Get to the damn table' | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, December 04, 2011 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, December 04, 2011

'Get to the damn table'

US urges Israel to end isolation in Middle East


Leon Panetta

US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta yesterday urged Israel to "mend fences" with Turkey, Egypt and others in the Middle East to reduce its growing isolation.
Panetta called on Israel to restart peace talks with the Palestinians.
The peace process with the Palestinians has been stalled for more than a year, bedevilled by continuing Israeli settlement construction in occupied territories and by the Palestinians' bid for full membership of the United Nations.
Panetta said Israel should "lean forward on efforts to achieve peace with the Palestinians".
"Rather than undermining the Palestinian Authority, it is in Israel's interests to strengthen it by... continuing to transfer Palestinian tax revenues and pursuing other avenues of co-operation," he said.
When asked by an audience member after his speech what Israel could do to get the peace talks restarted, he said: "Just get to the damn table."
"The problem right now is we can't get them to the damn table."
He added that the US remained committed to Israel's security and would not allow Iran to acquire nuclear weapons.
In a speech in Washington, he said Israel was not entirely to blame, referring to an "international campaign" to isolate it.
"Unfortunately, over the past year, we've seen Israel's isolation from its traditional security partners in the region grow, and the pursuit of a comprehensive Middle East peace plan has effectively been put on hold," he said.
He said a nuclear-armed Iran posed the greatest threat to the security and prosperity of the Middle East.
President Barack Obama had not ruled out using military action to prevent Tehran from acquiring nuclear weapons, but Mr Panetta said a strike would only delay its nuclear programme by one or two years.
He said military action was a "last resort".

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