As Ma’an reported earlier…

ABOARD A US MILITARY AIRCRAFT (AFP) — US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said the Arab Spring has left Israel “increasingly isolated” in the Middle East and that its military might could not make up for a weakened diplomatic position.

Speaking to reporters aboard his plane bound for Israel as part of a Middle East tour, Panetta said it was crucial for Israel to shore up its relations with Egypt and other countries in the region that had proved valuable partners in the past.

“There’s not much question in my mind that they maintain that (military) edge. But the question you have to ask is it enough to maintain a military edge, if you’re isolating yourself in the diplomatic arena?” Panetta said.

“At this dramatic time in the Middle East, when there have been so many changes, it’s not a good situation for Israel to become increasingly isolated. And that’s what’s happening,” he said…

Now, Leon wasn’t quite done delivering broadsides at the various parties…

US defense secretary urges return to negotiations

US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta on Monday called for “bold action” from Israeli and Palestinian leaders to achieve peace, but said freezing of US funds to Palestinians was a mistake…

“I want to emphasize that there is a need, and an opportunity, for bold action on both sides to move toward a negotiated two-state solution. There is no alternative to negotiations,” Panetta said at a news conference with Barak.

Panetta told reporters that the US Congress decision to block $200 million in aid did not come at the right time, the Israeli news site Ynet reported.

Both Israelis and Palestinians gain from US aid, Ynet quoted Panetta saying…

…Palestinian leaders say they cannot negotiate while Israel refuses to renew a partial moratorium on settlement building on Palestinian lands, which last expired in September 2010 bringing talks to a halt.

F*ck ya, It’s not just a ‘moratorium on settlement building’ that needs to be addressed…! Obama refuses to take ‘no’ for an answer…

… Israel on Sunday formally accepted an international proposal to return to peace negotiations with the Palestinians, but any immediate resumption of talks appeared unlikely as the Israelis and Palestinians differed sharply over the letter and spirit of the proposal

A senior Palestinian official said over the weekend that after three days of deliberations, the Palestinian leadership had decided not to return to talks unless Israel halted all settlement construction and agreed to clear terms of reference for the negotiations — requirements that were perhaps implied but not spelled out in the Sept. 23 statement of the so-called quartet of Middle East peacemakers, which is made up of the United States, the United Nations, the European Union and Russia.

But facts never get in the way of the Obama administration. A State Department spokesman released a statement Sunday: “We welcome the Israeli government’s announcement today expressing readiness to resume negotiations with the Palestinians, as called for by the Quartet.The Palestinians expressed support for the Quartet approach on September 29. The U.S. once again calls on both parties to resume negotiations without preconditions, on the timetable proposed by the Quartet, as the best means to advance their interests, resolve their differences, and fulfill the President’s two-state vision.” Umm, but didn’t, you know, the Palestinians say just the opposite?

However, as the recently released UNOCHA report points out in plain english, it’s Israel clearly stepping up it’s ‘game’…

UN statistics show that Israel’s occupation is more aggressive

…The UNOCHA report said that the Israeli Occupation Authorities demolished 409 Palestinian structures in 2011 compared with 290 over the same period in 2010. Just over 800 Palestinians have been injured to-date in 2011; the figure for January to September 2010 was 374.

Attacks by illegal Jewish settlers accounted for 139 Palestinians being injured so far this year; in 2010 the figure was 74. Settler-related incidents resulting in Palestinian injuries or property damage, said UNOCHA, numbered 326 in 2011 compared with 202 in 2010.

The report also revealed that the number of Palestinians injured at the hands of Israeli forces has doubled in 2011 when compared to last year: 471 Palestinians were injured by the Occupation forces this year while there were 194 such cases in 2010. Israeli forces have killed 85 Palestinians this year; in 2010 the figure was 53…

Btw, some more classic Leon…

…Panetta, who met the country’s military ruler Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, strongly urged Egypt to provide better security in the Sinai Peninsula, after Israel said an attack on its south was mounted from there.

“I am concerned about the situation in the Sinai,” Panetta told reporters after the talks.

The Pentagon chief “strongly urged” Tantawi “to provide better security in the Sinai,” he said, adding that Egyptian leaders reassured him they were “confident” they could ensure security in the peninsula.

“Any friction in that area could create real problems for the region,” Panetta said…

I’m not very surprised at this little bit of news… Palestinians protest against US in Ramallah…

Meanwhile… Bracing for UN bid fallout in Gaza…

God Bless the Palestinians…!