U.S. defence Secretary Robert Gates is in Israel today following Wednesday’s fatal bombing at a Jerusalem bus stop.The blast – coupled with escalating violence in Gaza – indicates that Israeli-Palestinian tensions are once again on the rise. The flareups now threaten to derail any possibility of restarting the peace process.
Gates is expected to discuss regional security concerns in the wake of recent uprisings in the Middle East, and also to urge Israelis to come back to the table for peace talks, Reuters reports.
A senior U.S. defence 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 visit comes on the heels of a two-day trip to Egypt, his first since the political uprising that ousted President Hosni Mubarek. The defence Secretary assured Egypt’s military leaders of continued U.S. assistance, while urging them to remain committed to a peaceful democratic transition and to Middle East peace.
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