Ultimately, the dream of a secure, prosperous Jewish democratic Israel can only be achieved through two states living side by side in peace and security. With full confidence that the United States is willing and capable of ensuring that Israel can safeguard its security as it takes the risks needed to pursue peace, now is the time for Israel to take bold action and to move towards a negotiated two-state solution.
Nothing new there. But when asked what Israel must do right away, Secretary Panetta replied, “Get to the damn table.” This remark made headlines because it suggests he believes that whether negotiations get restarted is something entirely within Israel’s control.
Referring to Turkey, Egypt and Jordan, he went on to call on Israel “to reach out and mend fences with those who share an interest in regional stability.”
One wonders what part of Israel’s offers to return unconditionally to talks with the Palestinians Mr. Panetta missed. Or whether Israel really can do anything to repair ties with a Turkey that aggressively seeks to ascend to leadership in the Muslim world or with an Egypt in the throes of violent upheaval or with a Jordan afraid to buck the Arab hostility toward Israel.
But it was Mr. Panetta’s remarks on Iran that were most disturbing. He started by noting that “No greater threat exists to the security and prosperity of the Middle East than a nuclear-armed Iran” and that a “pillar of our approach to the region is our determination to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons.” He described it as “a ‘redline’ for the United States.” He went on to note “when it comes to the threat posed by Iran, the president has made it very clear that we have not taken any options off the table.”
Yet he also went to some length to describe the downsides to possible military action. In reading his caveats – including concerns about logistics, cost to Western economies in the throes of an economic crisis, Iranian military reaction around the world, the probability that the effect would be only transitory – one gets the distinct notion that Mr. Panetta was in fact removing a military strike as an option.
The Clinton/Panetta monologues left us wondering why key officials of an administration that lately had gone out of its way to burnish its pro-Israel credentials suddenly seemed to have Israel once more in the cross hairs.