Moment of many challenges for Middle East: Jones

Reiterating Obama administration commitment for a two-State solution to the Israeli-Palestine dispute, a top US official said it is a moment of many challenges for the Middle East.

Washington: Reiterating Obama administration commitment for a two-State solution to the Israeli-Palestine dispute, a top US official said it is a moment of many challenges for the Middle East.

"When it comes to the Middle East, it is a moment of many challenges," said US National Security Advisor General (rtd) James Jones said at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

"It is the challenge of transitioning to full Iraqi responsibility for their future. In Afghanistan and beyond, is the challenge of defeating violent extremists who threaten us all. It is the challenge of preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons and the means to deliver them," he said in his major policy speech on the Middle East.

"It is the challenge of forging a lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians as part of a comprehensive peace in the region. It is the challenge of realising greater prosperity and opportunity for all who call the Middle East home. Alone, any one of these would demand extraordinary patience and perseverance," he argued.

Making a strong case to a peaceful resolution of the Israel-Palestine dispute, Jones said it is time to begin negotiations and to put an end to excuses.

"It is time for all leaders in the region-Israeli, Palestinian, and Arab-to support efforts for peace. It is time for today`s leader to demonstrate the courage and leadership of Anwar Sadat, King Hussein, and Yitzhak Rabin," he said.

In America`s pursuit of a two-state solution, he said the US recognises that peace must be made by the parties and cannot be imposed from the outside.

He said the US understands that the status quo was not sustainable for Israel`s identity as a secure, Jewish, and democratic state, "because the demographic clock keeps ticking and will not be reversed”.

"The status quo is not sustainable for Palestinians who have legitimate aspirations for sovereignty and statehood. And the status quo is not sustainable for the region because there is a struggle between those who reject Israel`s existence and those who are prepared to coexist with Israel - and the status quo strengthens the rejectionists and weakens those who would live in peace," Jones said.

"Obviously, we are disappointed that the parties have not begun direct negotiations. The United States stands ready to do whatever is necessary to help the parties bridge their differences and develop the confidence needed to make painful compromises on behalf of peace," he observed.

"As we do so, we will also strongly support the Palestinian Authority`s efforts to develop its institutions from the ground up and call on other states, particularly in the region, to do their part to support the Palestinian Authority as well," Jones said.

At the same time the National Security Advisor said the US will never waiver in defence of Israel`s security.

"That is why we provide billions of dollars annually in security assistance to Israel, why we have reinvigorated our consultations to ensure Israel`s Qualitative Military Edge, and why we undertake joint military exercises, such as the Juniper Cobra ballistic missile defence exercise that involved more than 1,000 United States servicemen and women," he said.

"We view these efforts as essential elements of our regional security approach, because many of the same forces that threaten Israel also threaten the United States," Jones said.

"I can also say from long experience that our security relationship with Israel is important for America. Our military benefits from Israeli innovations in technology, from shared intelligence, from exercises that help our readiness and joint training that enhances our capabilities and from lessons learned in Israel`s own battles against terrorism and asymmetric threats," Jones said.