Panetta to Israel: 'Just Get to the Damn Table'
Defense Secretary says military action should be 'last resort, not the first'
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 3, 2011 4:55 PM CST
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta gestures during a news conference at the Pentagon, Thursday, Nov. 10, 2011.   (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
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(Newser) – Leon Panetta delivered a harsh rebuke to Israel yesterday, saying that it needed to take steps to end its increasing isolation in the Middle East—starting with reviving peace talks with the Palestinians. “Just get to the damn table,” Panetta said at a pro-Israel forum in Washington, according to Reuters. “The problem right now is we can’t get ‘em to the damn table, to at least sit down and begin to discuss their differences.”

Panetta also said he’d wrestled with Israel about launching a preemptive strike to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. “You always have the last resort … of military action,” he said. “But it must be the last resort, not the first.” Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barack today shot down speculation—prompted by recent explosions—that Israel was already in a shadow war with Iran, but said that “no option should be taken off the table," Haaretz reports. He added that he was in "constant dialogue" with Panetta.