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U.S. Official Acknowledges Regional Threats to Israel Not Linked to Resolution of Palestinian Conflict

State Dept. Assistant Secretary Declines to Address Concerns Over Perceived Decline in Bilateral Relations

On the day an article stressing close U.S.-Israel security ties under President Obama appeared in The Washington Post, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs Andrew J. Shapiro appeared before a crowd of Middle East policy analysts to affirm the message. He was reticent to address mounting concerns that the partnership is in decline, and specifically did not address whether the administration had declined to deliver weapons contracted for during the Bush Administration, declaring that America’s security relationship with Israel is “broader, deeper and more intense than ever before.”

Speaking Friday at the Brookings Institution's Saban Center for Middle East Policy, Shapiro appeared to reveal a bit of Obama Administration policy confusion. On the one hand, he stressed the importance the White House placed on ensuring that Israel has the capability to counter rocket threats posed by Hezbollah, Hamas, and Iran, but on the other hand, diminished Israel's very drive to do that. "Bolstering Israel's security against the rocket threat will not by itself facilitate a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict," he said. And "A two-state solution will not in and of itself bring an end to these threats."

Shapiro also indicated that Israel's arms sales requests were weighed against its neighbors' concerns. Possibly referring to an undeclared U.S. ban on sales of military systems that could facilitate an Israeli strike on Iranian nuclear facilities – or possibly referring to a quietly growing belief that the Administration has withheld other military equipment Israel has requested – Shapiro noted that "As a matter of policy, [the Obama Administration] will not proceed with any release of military equipment or services that may pose a risk to allies or contribute to regional insecurity in the Middle East." He further emphasized that considerations regarding the maintenance of Israel's qualitative military edge "extend to our decisions on defense cooperation with all other governments in the region."

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