Defense Secretary Troubled By Israel’s Growing Isolation


secretary-of-defense-leon-panettaDefense Secretary Leon Panetta called onIsrael Friday to “reach out and mend fences” with Turkey, Egyptand other security partners in the Middle East, saying he is troubled by the Jewish state’s growing isolation in the volatile region.

He also urged Israeli leaders to do more to restart peace talks with the Palestinians and underscored President Barack Obama’s determination to stop Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. He called Iran “a very grave threat to all of us” and said any Iranian disruption of the free flow of commerce through the Persian Gulf is a “redline” for the U.S.

In a speech at a Brookings Institution forum, Panetta said that while Israel is not solely responsible for its isolation, it could more actively attempt to reverse the trend.

“For example, Israel can reach out and mend fences with those who share an interest in regional stability – countries like Turkey and Egypt, as well as Jordan,” he said. “This is not impossible. If the gestures are rebuked, the world will see those rebukes for what they are. And that is exactly why Israel should pursue them.”

Panetta, who made his first visit to Israel as Pentagon chief in October, said it is in the interests of Israel as well as Turkey – which is a NATO ally of the United States – to reconcile. He said he would take that message to Ankara when he visits there in two weeks.

He urged the Israelis to address its concerns about Egypt’s political revolution through increased communication and cooperation with Egyptian authorities, “not by stepping away from them.”

Addressing an issue that is in the primary domain of Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, Panetta urged Israel to “lean forward” to achieve peace with the Palestinians. Peace talks have been moribund for more than a year.

“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 cooperation,” he said.

Panetta spoke starkly of the challenge of Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

“No greater threat exists to the security and prosperity of the Middle East than a nuclear-armed Iran,” he said, adding that Obama has not ruled out using military force to stop Iran from going nuclear.

In a question-and-answer session with his audience after his speech, Panetta was asked what Israel should do to get peace talks back on track.

“Just get to the damned table,” Panetta replied.

In response to questions about Iran, Panetta also laid out in detail his thinking on the arguments against an Israeli or U.S. military attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities.

He said such an attack would “at best” delay Iran’s nuclear program by one or two years. Among the unintended consequences, he said, would be an increase in regional support for Iran and the likelihood of Iranian retaliation against U.S. forces and bases in the Mideast. It also would have harmful economic consequences and could lead to military escalation, he said.

“We have to be careful about the unintended consequences” of an Israeli or U.S. attack, he said.

{The Associated Press/ Newscenter}


  1. What table? You mean the one with 3 legs????
    Israel will always be isolated from the rest. That is their past, present and future…get with the program…it’s not happening…never will.
    We have been isolated for as long as we have a history on this earth…And so it shall be..until Moshiach comes.
    No amount of beseeching, no matter who is the head of State…will propel the enemies of Israel to make or retain a real peace. It is endless hogwash and a waste of time. The world has to be in a receptive state to allow Israel to be where she eventually will end up being:ON TOP…BUT THE TIME HAS NOT COME…IT IS THOUGH…COMING REAL SOON….IYH.

  2. Panetta should lean on those responsible for isolating Israel, namely, the Muslim states, and stop badgering Israel. Anyone who takes our Administration officials seriously in their pronouncementa on Israel is disconnected from reality.

  3. Sorry but the AP article is a lazy article that misrepresents Panetta BECAUSE IT DOESNT FULLY QUOTE HIM. Panetta didnt tell Israel to get to the table, he said at the end of a long speech – WHOSE AUDIENCE WAS SPECIFICALLY made up of ISRAELIS AND AMERICAN JEWS, with Meir Dagan fmr head of Mossad in the audience – WHAT ISRAEL SHOULD DO TO ATTAIN PEACE, and PANETTA responded to the question

    SEC. PANETTA: “Just get to the —- table. Just get to the table. (Applause.) The problem right now is we can’t get them to the damn table to at least sit down and begin to discuss their differences – you know, we all know what the pieces are here for a potential agreement. We’ve talked it out, worked through, we understand the concerns, we understand the concerns of Israel, understand the concerns of the Palestinians. If they sit at a table and work through those concerns, and the United States can be of assistance in that process, then I think you have the beginning of what could be a process that would lead to a peace agreement. But if they aren’t there – if they aren’t at the table, this will never happen. So first and foremost, get to the —- table. (Applause.)

  4. Leon Panetta knowingly ignores (denies) the reality. The Arabs deny our right to Eretz Israel. The Palestinians refuse to recognize Israel as a Jewish state. So what’s to talk about with them?

    Regarding our political isolation, let Leon Panetta know that has been our historic destiny not to be buddy-buddy with the goyim.