WASHINGTON (JTA) — U.S. Gen. David Petraeus said reports that he suggested Israeli-Palestinian peace was critical to successfully fulfilling U.S. Central Command’s mission were overblown.
"There’s a 56-page document that we submitted that has a statement in it that describes various factors that influence the strategic context in which we operate, and among those we listed the Mideast peace process,” the Central Command commander said, referring to his prepared testimony earlier this month for the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee. "We noted in there that there was a perception at times that America sides with Israel and so forth. And I mean, that is a perception. It is there. I don’t think that’s disputable. But I think people inferred from what that said and then repeated it a couple of times and bloggers picked it up and spun it. And I think that has been unhelpful, frankly."
Petraeus, who was speaking March 24 at a news conference in New Hampshire reported by the American Spectator, noted that in outlining threats and challenges in his testimony he also listed extremist groups that deny Israel’s right to exist and "a country that has a nuclear program who denies that the Holocaust took place," a reference to Iran.
Petraeus contacted Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi, the Israeli military chief, to tamp down the controversy.
A welter of bloggers seized on Petraeus’ testimony to make the case that Israeli recalcitrance frustrates U.S. interests. The Anti-Defamation League, meanwhile, slammed Petraeus’ testimony as "dangerous and counterproductive."