Notes from a June 16, 2009 meeting show the chief Palestinian negotiator, Saeb Erekat, quoting what Mullen told Mahmoud Abbas:
I have 230,000 troops in Iraq & Afghanistan and I am bringing back 10 each week draped in American flags or in wheelchairs. This is painful for America. Because I want to bring them back home, a Palestinian state is a cardinal interest of the USA. Washington today is different from Washington yesterday.
The implication from that statement is crystal clear: Resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a vital national security interest of the U.S. While “reverse linkage” pushers will always deny this argument, the military, the realist establishment, and the administration increasingly appear to be of one mind on this issue.