(photo credit: REUTERS)
Promising that the United States will continue to ensure Israel’s qualitative
military edge in the Middle East, US Defense Secretary Robert Gates urged the
Israeli leadership on Thursday to work harder to achieve peace with the
“There is a need and an opportunity for bold action to move
toward a two-state solution,” Gates said, during a press conference with Defense
Minister Ehud Barak at the Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv on
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Gates said that he did not remember a period like today when
Israeli-US security relations were so strong, particularly in the field of
Gates arrived in the afternoon from Egypt and was met by
an honor guard at the Defense Ministry. He said that his impression from his
talks in Egypt was that the current leadership, led by Defense Minister Mohammed
Tantawi, took the peace treaty with Israel seriously and intended to maintain
He said that he offered the Egyptians US help in combating the
continued smuggling of arms into the Gaza Strip.
Gate’s visit here is his
second trip to Israel as defense secretary. His first visit was in April 2007
when Amir Peretz still served as defense minister.
Gates is on a tour
throughout the Middle East reported to be part of a farewell trip ahead of his
planned retirement this summer.
Gates met later Thursday with President
Shimon Peres and is scheduled to meet on Friday with Palestinian Prime Minister
Salam Fayyad and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, following the latter’s
return from Moscow.
During their hour-long meeting, Barak and Gates
discussed ways to ensure Israel’s qualitative military edge in a changing Middle
East, as well as ways to ensure Israeli security so the government will feel
confident to move forward with the Palestinian peace track.
concerned by the possibility that radical Islamists will gain power in some of
the countries undergoing revolutions – particularly in Egypt – and is seeking
ways to ensure its qualitative military edge.
On Wednesday during his
visit to Egypt, Gates reportedly voiced support for postponing
“I would simply say that we believe it is important to allow
those new elements that have become active in Egyptian politics, some of them
for the first time, to have the time to develop political parties and to develop
organization and structure,” Gates was quoted as saying in the Wall Street
Journal, so that “they can play the same kind of leading role in Egypt in the
future that they played in bringing about this change in the first
Before Gates’s meeting with Barak, senior US defense official
told reporters traveling with Gates that the defense secretary planned to urge
Israel to make progress in peace talks with the PA as a way of getting ahead of
the wave of unrest sweeping throughout the Middle East.
uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, Bahrain and Libya were focusing for now on
domestic political and economic grievances, that could change, the official
“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,” the official said.