A spokesman for Israel's prime minister is blaming the Palestinian leadership for the deadlock in peace talks, a day after the U.S. defense secretary said that Israel was not doing enough to renew negotiations.
Mark Regev, a spokesman for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, said Israel remains ready for the resumption of peace talks without preconditions. The Palestinians, he said on Saturday, are "playing diplomatic games to try to cover their position, which is to boycott Israel and to refuse to enter negotiations."
At a Brookings Institution forum on Friday, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta urged Israeli leaders to "just get to the damned table." He added that Israel could more actively attempt to mend ties with Turkey and Egypt, and reverse its growing isolation in the Middle East.
Panetta also spoke starkly of the challenge of Iran's nuclear ambitions. "No greater threat exists to the security and prosperity of the Middle East than a nuclear-armed Iran," he said, adding that Obama has not ruled out using military force to stop Iran from going nuclear.
In a question-and-answer session with his audience after his speech, Panetta laid out in detail his thinking on the arguments against an Israeli or U.S. military attack on Iran's nuclear facilities.
He said such an attack would "at best" delay Iran's nuclear program by one or two years. Among the unintended consequences, he said, would be an increase in regional support for Iran and the likelihood of Iranian retaliation against U.S. forces and bases in the Middle East. It also would have harmful economic consequences and could lead to military escalation, he said.
"We have to be careful about the unintended consequences" of an Israeli or U.S. attack, he said.
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