, WASHINGTON, Dec 2 – US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said on Friday that Israel must act to end its increasing “isolation” in the region by repairing diplomatic ties with Egypt and Turkey and renewing peace efforts with the Palestinians.
Panetta said in a speech that “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 has effectively been put on hold.”
But he added that Israel was not entirely to blame for its difficult position and referred to an “international campaign” designed to isolate the country.
Panetta said he understood Israel’s anxieties over turmoil in the Middle East but said the Arab spring offered an opportunity for the country to forge a more secure place in the region.
It was crucial for Israel to “mend fences” with Turkey and Egypt, he said.
The United States remained committed to Israel’s security and vowed to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons, saying the option of possible military action had not been ruled out by President Barack Obama.
The Pentagon chief also pledged Washington would ensure Israel continues to enjoy a clear military edge by providing the Jewish state with sophisticated missile defenses and new stealthy F-35 fighter jets.