Top US military official: Middle East Peace Stalemate endangers American Interests

By Amir Oren, Haaretz 

11.03.12
 
On the heels of Prime Minister Netanyahu's meeting with President Obama which failed to discuss the Palestinian peace process, U.S. Marine Corps General James Mattis tells U.S. Congress that the Middle East peace process is an American interest in the region. Shouldn't this be the focus? 
 
During an annual briefing Tuesday in the U.S. Congress, Marine Corps Gen. James Mattis, head of the Central Command, issued a warning about a continued impasse in the Israel-Palestine conflict. He said that the political awakening in the Arab world has caused regimes in the region to be more attentive than ever to the emotions of their populations. The current stalemate between Israel and the Palestinians, he declared, cannot continue; what is needed is the renewal of an Israeli-Arab drive for peace based on a two-state solution. The non-resolution of the conflict, he added, exacts a "steep price" and complicates the activities of forces under his command.
 
Mattis' remarks made a distinct impression on his listeners, particularly in view of the attitude of neglect demonstrated by President Barack Obama, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and other top U.S. officials toward the stalled Israel-Palestinian peace process. His comments are also significant in light of his manifestly sympathetic orientation toward the Israel Defense Forces. Mattis, 61, is friendly with senior IDF officers with whom he worked during his decades of service; among others, he is acquainted with Maj. Gen. Shai Avital, head of the Special Forces Command, and Kfir Brigade Commander Col. David Menachem.
 
The annual briefing by the Centcome commander is given to the military affairs committees of both the Senate and the House Representatives. In his comments, Mattis said that the issue of continuing stalemate on the Israel-Palestinian track comes up in almost every meeting he holds with key leaders in the region. "A peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians will foster stable public support among our partners in the region for American initiatives," Mattis claimed, "and it will reinforce regional cooperation." He added that such an agreement would also hamper the efforts of extremist groups, saying: "Our obligation to future generations is to do our utmost to solve this vexing problem, which throws oil on the flames of extremist ideologies."
 
Marine Corps Gen. James Mattis, head of U.S. Central Command