Leon Panetta, the new US defense secretary, stated his country is committed to ensuring Israel maintains a "qualitative military edge" in the Middle East, but warned that the latter is becoming increasingly isolated. Panetta, who starts an official visit in Israel on Monday, said he planned to use the trip to reaffirm American security commitments to Israel and try to improve its deteriorating ties with Turkey and Egypt.
"It's pretty clear, at this dramatic time in the Middle East when there have been so many changes, that it is not a good situation for Israel to become increasingly isolated. And that is what has happened," Panetta told reporters on his plane.
"The important thing there is to again reaffirm our strong security relationship with Israel, to make clear that we will protect their qualitative military edge," Panetta added. "As they take risks for peace, we will be able to provide the security that they will need in order to ensure that they can have the room hopefully to negotiate."