Sunday, September 11, 2011

Panetta Played Key Role in Saving Israeli Lives In Egypt

Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta was the Obama administration's point man who successfully pressed Egypt's interim military government to rescue six trapped guards at the Israeli embassy in Cairo, the Israeli government disclosed.

When Israeli government officials failed to get the Egyptians to take action, it was Panetta who stepped in and took action,  according to the Israeli Defense Ministry. 

Panetta telephoned Supreme Council of the Armed Forces Chairman Gen. Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, warning him to get the Israelis out safely or face recriminations from a nation that bankrolls and invests in Egypt.

"There's no time to waste," Panetta told Tantawi, warning that if the Israelis did not get of the embassy safely it "would have very severe consequences," according to Haaretz

Egyptian commandos went into the embassy a short time later and safely rescued the Israelis.

President Obama himself became engaged shortly after the violence broke out Friday, calling on Egypt to take steps to curb the threat to the Israel's sovereign embassy property. Obama spoke to Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu.

The demonstration at the Israeli embassy that turned violent and destructive is seen by many of the revolutionaries of the Arab Spring as a threat to democratic reforms because it represents a dangerous diversion from the need to move forward with elections and institution-building.

"There are (Egyptian) objectors, who are appealing not against policy, but against Israel," Netanyahu said.

For his part, Netanyahu worked the phones, speaking with Egyptian intelligence chief Gen. Murad Muwafi, after failing to get in touch with Tantawi.

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak, meanwhile, was in contact with  Panetta and  Dennis Ross, Middle East adviser on the White House National Security Council.

Barak had asked Panetta and Ross to push the Egyptian military "to protect the embassy from the demonstrators who broke into it," according to a statement from Barak's office.

The Israelis believe it is essential for the Cairo embassy to re-open quiuckly and stand as the symbol of Arab-Israeli relations.

"The Middle East is undergoing a historical earthquake and we have to operate calmly, responsibly," Netanyahu said today.

"Israel will continue to adhere to the peace treaty with Egypt. We are working together with the Egyptian government to quickly return our ambassador to Cairo," Netanyahu added.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke this weekend with her Egyptian counterpart, Foreign Minister Mohamed Kamel Amr, as she and other U.S. officials maintain constant contact with their Egyptian and Israeli counterparts, the State Department said.

"She welcomed the statements made by both Egyptian and Israeli officials that both remain committed to the peace between the two nations, and reiterated her view that Egyptian-Israeli peace is a cornerstone to regional stability," a State Department statement said.

"Additionally, Secretary Clinton offered her condolences to the loved ones of an Egyptian solider who passed away Friday night from wounds he sustained during last month’s violence in Sinai," the statement added.

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