WASHINGTON – The head of U.S. Central Command isn’t looking to add Israel to his area of responsibility, and told senators Tuesday he doesn’t think any such move is needed.

Gen. David Petraeus, combatant commander for Iraq and Afghanistan but also neighboring countries like Pakistan and Egypt, denied news reports that he had sent a request to the White House seeking to expand their geographic responsibility to Israel.

“I have never made a formal recommendation to add Israel to CENTCOM,” he told members of the Senate Armed Services Committee, “but we certainly keep a close eye there.”

Stars and Stripes on Tuesday [Wednesday for Pac] cited a report from over the weekend that said Petraeus had made such a request after a lengthy Jan. 16 CENTCOM briefing to Joint Chief of Staff chairman Adm. Mike Mullen.

Currently, conflicts in the West Bank and Gaza fall under the watch of the Germany-based U.S. European Command. Petraeus said Israeli decisions have a clear and obvious influence on countries like Iran and Jordan, so leaders within his command closely monitor trends there.

In recent weeks U.S. officials have sparred with Israeli leaders over plans for new Jewish settlements in east Jerusalem, a project approved during Vice President Joe Biden’s visit to the country earlier this month. Palestinians have threatened not to join upcoming U.S.-brokered peace talks over the start of the project.

Petraeus told the committee that the ongoing hostilities between the Palestinians and Israelis “present distinct challenges to advance our interests in the area of operations,” noting that U.S. support for Israel results in anti-American sentiment in Palestinian-sympathizing neighbors. He also noted that Al Qaida routinely uses U.S. support for Israel in its propaganda.

Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign up to receive a daily email of today's top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign Up Now