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Clinton in Israel

US Secretary of State visits crucial US ally for the first time in two years

Arriving in Tel Aviv on Tuesday, United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton ended a two-year stretch of not visiting Israel to confer with both the Israeli prime minister and president over Syria and her recent visit to Egypt.

Clinton urged the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to resume peace talks with the Palestinian side, according to the Times of Israel. She reportedly also discussed several Israeli relations with regional countries including Iran, Turkey, and Syria and reported to Israeli officials on her talks with Egyptian officials.

Before her meeting with Netanyahu, she met with Israeli President Shimon Peres, and stressed the importance of cooperation between the US and Israel. According to The Jewish Press news service, she also met with Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, Defence Minister Ehud Barak and Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salaam Fayyad.

Clinton’s trip to Israel follows a two day trip in Egypt where she had talks with Egypt’s President Mohamed Morsy on Saturday and Field Marshall Mohamed Hussein Tantawi on Sunday. In her talks with Morsy, she spoke of shared interest between the two countries, discussed Egypt’s internal state of affairs, as well as pledging US financial support to Egypt’s economy.

When she arrived in Israel, she reportedly assured Israeli officials that Egypt’s new president will only focus on domestic matters, according to NBC News Digital.

A change in Egypt’s foreign policy toward Israel could spell major changes to the status quo in the region, changes that Israel will not welcome such as the lifting of the siege on Gaza or the opening of the Rafah border crossing. Peres reportedly told Clinton, “for the last 30 years, the fact that there was peace between us and Egypt saved the lives of hundreds of thousands of young people in Egypt and in Israel,” according to Xinhua News Agency.

Many in Gaza where hoping for drastic changes in Egypt’s policy towards Israel, particularly since Hamas is an affiliate organisation of the Brotherhood. Gazans were largely disappointed by former President Hosni Mubarak’s rule, in which he cooperated with Israel to impose a siege on Gaza which entered its fifth year last June.

Even before the final results of the Egyptian elections, when rumours that Morsy – the Muslim Brotherhood’s candidate – had won celebrations were underway by the people of Gaza. Following Morsy’s victory, prominent leaders from the Islamic Resistance movement, referred to as Hamas, congratulated Morsy for his victory. The enthusiasm of the people of Gaza was met with concern and worry on the Israeli side.

Israel, which was concerned with the series of uprisings that shook the Arab World, was even more concerned when the MB’s Islamist candidate was elected president. Following Morsy’s victory, the Israeli news service Yedioth Ahronot, led with a headline that read “Darkness in Egypt” in reaction to Morsy’s win.

Thus far, Morsy has offered no indication that he plans to get into a confrontation with Israel over Gaza. He has said several times that he plans to respect “international treaties and accords,” including in his first speech addressing the world as Egypt’s president. Most analysts believe he is referring to the peace treaty between Egypt and Israel. Morsy offered the same assurance on Saturday in his talks with Clinton.

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