In prepared testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee this morning, Gen. David Petraeus delivered the message that, as we’ve been writing over the last few days, Mark Parry reported on Saturday. Here’s the money quote:
Insufficient progress toward a comprehensive Middle East peace. The enduring hostilities between Israel and some of its neighbors present distinct challenges to our ability to advance our interests in the AOR. Israeli-Palestinian tensions often flare into violence and large-scale armed confrontations. The conflict foments anti-American sentiment, due to a perception of U.S. favoritism for Israel. Arab anger over the Palestinian question limits the strength and depth of U.S. partnerships with governments and peoples in the AOR and weakens the legitimacy of moderate regimes in the Arab world. Meanwhile, al-Qaeda and other militant groups exploit that anger to mobilize support. The conflict also gives Iran influence in the Arab world through its clients, Lebanese Hizballah and Hamas.
One can expect that some of the senators in attendance will want to follow up with questions on this, and it will be interesting to see how Petraeus elaborates. Part of the hearing, however, will be in closed session, so we’ll have to wait to see what leaks from that.
In any event, Petraeus’ willingness to publicly — and in uniform with all those decorations on his chest — make the connection between Israeli treatment of the Palestinians and the spread of “anti-American sentiment” and the deterioration of the U.S. position in the region — a connection which, of course, is completely evident to any casual observer of Middle East — marks what can only be considered a major breakthrough in the debate over the relationship between the United States and Israel.
And now that the neo-conservatives, staunch supporters of Bibi Netanyahu, have built up Petraeus as the greatest U.S. military commander since World War II, and, thanks to Bill Kristol, a presidential candidate to die for, how will they react? Remember, Petraeus is due to receive the 2010 Irving Kristol Award at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) in May!