U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates, in a photo press conference with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, emphasized “strong” American defense ties with Israel, but he later told reporters Israel should be "cautious" before striking back at terrorists and that “peace talks” must proceed despite recent Palestinian Authority attacks.
The Prime Minister told Gates at the press conference Friday, "Recently, Israel has been under a terrorist and missile assault. No country would tolerate such attacks. Israel will not tolerate these attacks. We are prepared to respond with all our might in order to stop this terrorism; we will put a stop to it."
Gates responded by pointing out, “At no time in the history of our two countries has our defense and security relationship been as strong as it is today…not just in affirmation, but in concrete ways.”
However, he delivered an entirely different message later in his visit, telling reporters that he advises Israel to be cautious before retaliating for terrorist attacks.
“I know there may be a temptation during this time of great uncertainty in the region to be more cautious about pursuing the peace process,” the Defense Secretary said. “I carry a different message -- that there is a need and an opportunity for bold action to move toward a two-state solution.”
Previously in his visit, Gates met with Defense Minister Ehud Barak and President Shimon Peres before travelling to Ramallah to speak with Palestinian Authority leaders.
PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad told Gates what he wanted to hear, virtually echoing the Defense Secretary’s earlier comments. “This is a time of great challenge throughout the region, but also a time for opportunity,” Fayyad said.
Before leaving for Jordan, Gates also threw in a good word for Egypt’s temporary military government, saying he was “quite reassured” by his meeting earlier with Egyptian Army Field Marshal Mohammed Hussein Tanta that Cairo is “serious” about retaining the 1979 peace treaty with Israel.