TEL AVIV : US Defense secretary, Panetta, while his first trip to Israel, has pressed the Obama administration's view that the Israel and Palestine must restart the long-stalled peace talks, during a news conference with Barak, Panetta said it's time for bold action by both sides to move toward a negotiated two-state solution.
The visit comes amid new international pressure to reach a peace deal by the end of next year, fueled by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' move two weeks ago asking the U.N. Security Council to recognize an independent Palestinian state in the West Bank, east Jerusalem and Gaza Strip.
Those areas were captured by Israel in the 1967 Mideast war. The US administration opposes the Abbas' U.N. bid, and Panetta's visit was clearly part of a broad campaign to avoid such a vote, and instead nudge the two sides back to the table.
Panetta issued his edgy warning that Israel risks eroding its own security if it does not reach out to its neighbors, such as Turkey and Egypt, where relations are eroding.
"It's pretty clear that 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's what's happening," he said.
Barak offered only general agreement but made no commitments that Israel would be more receptive to discussions about the settlements.
Israel has continued to build settlements in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, where some 500,000 Jewish settlers now live. Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005.