Secretary of State Hillary Clinton headed to the Middle East on Tuesday for talks with Israeli and Palestinian officials in the hopes of aiding movement toward a ceasefire. The deal would hope to put a temporary end to the crisis in Gaza, before it escalates into a possible Israel ground invasion with its troops.
Questions surrounded the nature of the trip, mostly concerning whether Clinton was going because talks were stuck or a diplomatic resolution was close at hand. U.S. Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes said the administration was aware of the difficulty of the talks because of how “charged” the issue is at hand.
“She’s going because we’ve been in discussions with these leaders and we want to carry those forward,” he said. “Obviously the center of gravity for those discussions is in the region.”
MSNBC host Chuck Todd agreed with Rhodes about the seriousness of the situation saying it prompted the use of “good, old-fashioned shuttle diplomacy” instead of a phone call between leaders.
Off camera, aides have said “they don’t feel like the talks are stalled but they certainly aren’t moving fast enough,” Todd added.
“There is concern in the Obama administration that not enough is being done to prevent a ground invasion on that front,” he said. “There’s concern Hamas right now doesn’t feel it’s ready to stop the rocket fire Into Israel which as far as the United States is concerned and Ben Rhodes made this clear—that’s the number one priority for any other part of this negotiation to be done.”
Todd also said that Clinton’s meeting with Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi would have the most impact on reaching a potential ceasefire. The United States classifies Hamas as a Terrorist Foreign Organization so it will not participate in direct talks with the group. However, Morsi could be considered a conduit. “ [Morsi] has the ability to potentially get Hamas to back down,” Todd said.
According to U.S. officials, Clinton will visit Jerusalem, Ramallah, and Cairo to meet with regional leaders and encourage a solution to allow both counties to live side by side in peace and security.
“Bottom line, Secretary Clinton’s chief mission is to buy time, try to create some space so that maybe a temporary ceasefire could be negotiated,” said Todd.
These talks will present a double meaning to Clinton on her last tour as secretary of state as she prepares to step down.
“The United States putting that much skin in the game, getting that involved—if suddenly nothing is prevented and in 72 hours a ground invasion begins” that could be bad for Clinton, he said.
If all goes well, it would be a “nice feather in her cap” to end her career.