The Secretary Is Off to the Middle East — Does this Mean Renewed Engagement?

Amidst questioning on the President’s new strategy for Iraq, Secretary of State Rice told Congress on January 11th that a new alignment of forces in the Middle East pits reformers in the Palestinian territories, as well as in Israel, Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Iraq against “extremists of every sect.”  In a January 12th Washington Post article, Glenn Kessler writes that in fact, the U.S. Administration hopes Rice’s “sustained personal effort” to revive Israeli-Palestinian talks will be a central element of its drive to knit together moderate forces in the Middle East. 

Kessler notes that former State Department Counselor Philip Zelikow has underscored the importance of achieving an Israeli-Palestinian agreement in laying the groundwork for building a more stable Middle East.  “Undergirding [this effort] is an intensified effort on the next phase of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process,” Zelikow said.  He added that jump-starting negotiations would help win greater support from countries like Saudi Arabia for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

Kessler cites U.S. officials’ behind-the-scenes efforts encouraging Israeli Prime Minister Olmert to publicly declare his support for the 2002 Saudi peace proposal that highlights recognition of Israel as a means to create an opening for discussions between the two countries about Islam’s holiest sites in Jerusalem. 

All will now wait to see what the Secretary’s trip brings, and whether this will be the first of many.

Explore posts in the same categories: Israel, Middle East, Middle East Peace, Palestinians, Two State Solution, U.S. Role

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