US National Security Advisor Susan Rice will visit Israel this week for high-level talks only days after the collapse of a US-led peace bid, the White House said Tuesday.
Rice will “lead the US delegation to the US-Israel Consultative Group meetings” on Wednesday and Thursday, said Caitlin Hayden, spokeswoman for the National Security Council.
It will be Rice’s first trip to Israel since becoming the top security advisor to President Barack Obama in July and also comes just ahead of resumed negotiations on Iran’s nuclear program.
The consultative group meets regularly for “strategic interagency consultations with senior members of the US and Israeli governments to discuss a wide range of bilateral and regional security issues.”
Rice will also meet with Israeli President Shimon Peres and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Hayden said in a statement.
The trip comes as the White House is evaluating whether to continue with its hard-fought negotiations to strike a peace deal after Netanyahu last month announced Israel was pulling out of the process.
The Israeli leader has angrily denounced moves by the Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to strike a reconciliation deal with Hamas militants, who control the Gaza Strip.
State Department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf Monday dismissed reports that Secretary of State John Kerry had decided to dismantle the team of negotiators who have been based on the ground in Jerusalem for months trying to push forward the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.
“We’re going to see where this goes from here and, you know, figure out what makes sense in terms of staffing,” she told reporters, saying “we have some senior officials that will be going soon” to the region, without going into specifics.
Chief US negotiator Martin Indyk was said to have been quoted anonymously in an interview in the Israeli daily, Yedioth Ahronoth, in which US officials blamed Israel for the breakdown in the talks and said Netanyahu “did not move more than an inch.”
Harf insisted no one side was to blame, saying “both sides did things that were incredibly unhelpful.”
She did confirm, however, that Kerry is mulling whether to release a document laying out some of the principles reached during the nine months of talks.
Indyk, a former US ambassador to Israel, has meanwhile returned to Washington for consultations, Harf confirmed.
In February, Rice made headlines in Israel when she criticized Israeli government ministers for personally attacking Kerry and his peace efforts.
Describing the attacks against Kerry as “totally unfounded and unacceptable,” Rice wrote in a series of tweets that “John Kerry’s record of support for Israel’s security and prosperity [is] rock solid.”
Although Rice’s comments were seen as particularly harsh, in her previous position, as US permanent representative to the United Nations, she defended Israel against some of its most strident critics.
In October 2012, she used strikingly similar language to condemn then-UN Special Rapporteur Richard Falk over his call to boycott companies that profit from Israeli settlements. Rice described Falk’s call as “irresponsible and unacceptable” and accused Falk of being “highly biased.”
Rice added that Falk’s recommendations did “nothing to further a peaceful settlement to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and indeed poisoned the environment for peace.”
In January 2011, Rice said that she was “appalled” by a blog post written by Falk in which, she said, Falk “endorses the slurs of conspiracy theorists who allege that the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks were perpetrated and then covered up by the US government and media.”
“Mr. Falk’s comments are despicable and deeply offensive, and I condemn them in the strongest terms,” wrote Rice, who at the time filed a “strong protest” with the UN on behalf of the United States.