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Leon Panetta, U.S. Defense Secretary, Urges Israel To 'Just Get To The Damned Table'

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Secretary of Defense Leon E. Panetta testifies at a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee on November 15, 2011 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. | Getty

JERUSALEM — A spokesman for Israel's prime minister said Saturday the Palestinian leadership is to blame for the deadlock in peace talks, a day after the U.S. defense secretary asserted that Israel was not doing enough to renew negotiations.

Mark Regev, a spokesman for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, said Israel remains ready for the resumption of peace talks without preconditions. The Palestinians, he said, are "playing diplomatic games to try to cover their position, which is to boycott Israel and to refuse to enter negotiations."

At a Brookings Institution forum on Friday, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta urged Israeli leaders to "just get to the damned table." He added that Israel could more actively attempt to mend ties with Turkey and Egypt, and reverse its growing isolation in the Middle East.

Palestinian Authority spokesman Ghassan Khatib said the Palestinians are eager to resume talks, but will not do so until Israel freezes settlement building in the West Bank, one of the areas the Palestinians seek for a future state.

"Israeli settlement activities indicate that the Israeli verbal commitment to negotiations is not serious," Khatib said. "There is a contradiction between Israel's willingness to negotiate the future of territories and its insistence of determining the future of the territories through illegal settlement activities."

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Panetta: Israel must get to the "damn" peace table - Yahoo! News