US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton landed in Israel early Monday morning for a two-day visit following a trip to Egypt. She was accompanied by US Middle East envoy David Hale and Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman, who represents Washington at the talks between world powers and Iran.
Clinton met with Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman and President Shimon Peres in Jerusalem Monday morning and was set to hold meetings with Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu later in the day. She will also meet with Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad at her hotel in Jerusalem. This is Clinton’s fourth visit to Israel since taking office.
During her meeting with Liberman, protesters called on the US to free Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard.
Clinton was expected to discuss the Iranian nuclear threat with Israeli leaders. The United States has long been concerned about a possible unilateral Israeli strike on Iran in order to cripple its nuclear program. With the recent breakdown in talks between Iran and the international sextet known as the P5+1, the Obama administration wants to determine whether Israel is in fact planning such a move, and to thwart it if possible, according to Maariv.
During her visit, Clinton is also expected to try to make inroads in restarting direct talks between Israeli and Palestinian leaders. Clinton will likely ask the Israeli government to release Palestinians imprisoned in Israel since before the Oslo peace process, and will ask President Mahmoud Abbas to refrain from requesting observer state status from the UN.
Asked in an interview Sunday with WJLA-TV, a Washington D.C. station, what he believed he failed at, US President Barack Obama cited Arab-Israeli peace efforts.
“I have not been able to move the peace process forward in the Middle East the way I wanted,” he said. “It’s something we focused on very early. But the truth of the matter is that the parties, they’ve got to want it as well.”
Clinton spent the past two days visiting Cairo and meeting with recently elected President Mohammed Morsi and Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi. Clinton asked Morsi to safeguard the rights of women and minorities in Egypt and uphold the peace treaty with Israel, and asked Tantawi to work with the president to advance Egyptian democracy.
White House National Security Adviser Tom Donilon visited Israel on Saturday and Sunday for consultations with his Israeli counterpart Yaakov Amidror and for meetings with Netanyahu and Barak.
National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor said that in the meetings, Donilon “reaffirmed the United States’ unwavering commitment to Israel’s security.”
Maariv reported Monday that US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta is expected to arrive in Israel later this month.