The US State Department confirmed on Thursday that Hillary Clinton will be making her first visit to Israel in two years this month, as part of an Asian tour that will also see her become the first senior US official to meet with the new Egyptian president, Mohamed Morsi.
After meeting with the Islamist leader in Cairo on July 15, in what a State Department statement described as a means of "expressing the United States’ support for Egypt’s democratic transition and economic development," the Secretary of State will move on to Israel, on July 16-17, precipitating a planned visit by Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, which was announced earlier in the week.
With much media speculation over whether a Republic president would seek to improve somewhat fragile relations between the US and Israeli administrations, Romney’s campaign has sought to capitalise on accusations of current incumbent Barack Obama of not supporting the Jewish State, declaring the President had "thrown Israel under the bus."
The State Department’s statement said Clinton would "iscuss peace efforts and a range of regional and bilateral issues of mutual concern", as part of her visit to Israel.
Such issues of mutual concern are likely to focus very heavily on the developing situation in neighbouring Middle Eastern states, including Egypt, where Morsi’s victory has been greeted with moderate optimism by the international community.
The first stop on Clinton’s international tour will be in Paris on Friday, where she will attend a "Friends of Syria" meeting designing to mobilise and unite opposition to President Bashar Assad’s authoritarian regime in Syria.
The Secretary of State has increasingly tried to convince her Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov to exert pressure on the former Soviet state’s close ally Assad, but hopes for Russia and China’s more stringent approach to the Syrian crisis are likely to have been dashed by the announcement that neither would attend Friday’s forum, where a number of western and Arab countries will convene to discuss how to bring an end to the violence and enable a political transition in the beleaguered country.
Clinton is also planning to meet with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on the fringes of Friday’s international Syrian meeting, as part of "her ongoing consultations with senior Palestinian and Israeli leaders."
The State Department said she would "discuss with both parties efforts to pursue a dialogue and build on President Abbas’ exchange of letters with Prime Minsiter Benjamin Netanyahu."
Abbas continues to refuse to engage in direct negotiations with Netanyahu, insisting that Israel abandon its settlement building policy, whilst Netanyahu has repeatedly called for a return to talks "without preconditions."