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Gates: Lack Of Middle East Peace Affects U.S. National Security

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates
U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates says the lack of peace between the Palestinians and U.S. ally Israel is a threat to U.S. national security interests in the Middle East.

Gates said on March 25 that the lack of progress toward Middle East peace is an issue that is exploited by America's adversaries in the region and is a source of political challenge to Washington.

Gates' comments come amid a row between the Obama administration and Israel over how to proceed with the peace process.

Washington has criticized Israeli plans to build new homes for Jewish settlers in East Jerusalem, saying they undermine prospects for the launch of indirect Israeli-Palestinian negotiations under U.S. mediation. The Palestinians, who are demanding a complete settlement freeze in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, want East Jerusalem for the capital of a future independent Palestinian state.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu this week concluded a visit to Washington that failed to result in any breakthrough on how to advance peace talks with the Palestinians.

compiled from agency reports