US Defense Secretary Robert Gates on Thursday called for bold action by Israel and the Palestinians on a two state solution.

He made the comments during a joint press conference with Defense Minister Ehud Barak held in Tel Aviv.

RELATED:
Gates says Libyans, not West will determine fate
Obama condemns J'lem attack, touts 'importance of calm'

On Friday, Gates will meet Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad.

A senior US defense official, briefing reporters ahead of the trip and the bombing, said Washington believed Israel needed to get ahead of a wave of unrest sweeping the region by advancing peace efforts.

Although uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, Bahrain and Libya were focusing for now on domestic political and economic grievances, that could change, the official suggested.

"(Gates) will make the general argument that ... the Israelis have a very deep strategic interest in getting out in front of the wave of populism that's sweeping the region," the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

"Showing real progress on the peace track with the Palestinians would put them in a much better position for where the region's likely to be in six months or a year from now."

Gates is fresh from a visit to Egypt, where longtime US ally Hosni Mubarak was toppled in an uprising last month. He was in Bahrain less than two weeks ago, urging reform there.

On Wednesday in Cairo, Gates expressed amazement at the speed with which the revolts have spread "regardless of the diversity of the governments involved".

Please LIKE our Facebook page - it makes us stronger