US defence chief calls Israel back to "damn table"
Defence Secretary Leon Panetta said in an unusually blunt message to Israel from a US official that it should get to the "damn table" and engage in peace talks with the Palestinians, news reports said, dpa reported.
He also said at a talk Friday at the Brookings Institution think tank in Washington that Israel should engage with Turkey, Egypt and Jordan to end its isolation in the Middle East.
"Just get to the damn table," Panetta was quoted as saying about the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. "Just get to the table. 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."
Security is not only dependent on a strong military but strong diplomacy as well, Panetta said.
"Unfortunately, over the past year, we have seen Israel's isolation from its traditional security partners in the region grow, and the pursuit of a comprehensive Middle East peace has effectively been put on hold," he said.
He reiterated the United States' strong support of its traditional ally and said it alone was not responsible for its isolation, but he said Israel must re-establish its partnerships in the Middle East and clear up its historical conflict with the Palestinians.