Netanyahu Gates 311.
(photo credit: GPO)
Robert Gates on Friday became the first US Defense Secretary to visit the
Palestinian Authority, going to Ramallah following a meeting in Caesarea with
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.
RELATED:PM: Israel will respond with 'utmost strength' to terrorGates calls for bold action to reach two-state solution
Israeli officials downplayed the
significance of the brief Ramallah trip, saying it was not a major symbolic
event since US presidents and secretaries of state have gone there in the
“It is a great pleasure for me to welcome Secretary Gates to
Palestine,” Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad said.
“This is a time
of great challenge throughout the region. But also a time of opportunity,
requiring a redoubling of the effort aimed at pursuing the cause of peace,
justice and security.”
Gates, who noted that he was “the first American
secretary of defense to visit Ramallah,” said “I look forward to our talks ...
obviously the political developments around the region, but also the prospects
for a two-state solution.”
The US Defense Department website says Gates
has visited 104 different countries since taking office in 2006. He is expected
to step down later this year.
Gates met Netanyahu before going to
Ramallah, and prior to that meeting said that at no time in the history of
US-Israel relations “has our defense and security relationship been stronger
than it is today.”
Netanyahu, referring to last week’s bombing in
Jerusalem and the continuing missile attacks from Gaza, said that US President
Barack Obama told him in a telephone conversation on Thursday that “the US
stands behind you in your struggle against terrorism.”
that civilized nations must make it clear that the terrorism will not be
tolerated. “Israel will not tolerate these attacks,” he said. “We stand ready to
act with great force and great determination to put a stop to
it.”Reuters contributed to this report.