Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrives in Israel today, in a visit that is being billed as an effort to discuss the stalled peace process, but which Israeli media have labeled an attempt to upstage Republican presidential contender Mitt Romney, who arrives for his own visit later this month.
Clinton's boss, President Barack Obama, has not visited Israel in his first term in office, but has visited several other Middle East countries. Romney's visit will take advantage of that fact to offer a contrast to President Obama's policies, which have often been confrontational towards Israel as regards the Palestinians, and which have been seen to undermine Israel's defense posture regarding Iran.
The Jerusalem Post reports:
Iran’s growing nuclear threat is expected to play a large role in her talks Monday with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and President Shimon Peres.
But there is much speculation that Clinton’s trip is connected to the United States presidential race and it is timed to counter Jewish-American public perception that Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s visit to Israel later this month means that he is more committed to Israel than the Obama administration.
Clinton was once seen as nominally more pro-Israel than Obama, her rival in the 2008 Democratic primary, but carried out his diplomatic attack against Israel in March 2000, when the Obama Administration publicly criticized Israeli construction in Jewish areas of East Jerusalem. On that occasion, Clinton lectured Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over the telephone for 45 minutes. Romney is thought to have a far better relationship with Netanyahu, dating back to their time as young colleagues at Boston Consulting Group.
Clinton last visited Israel in 2010. On her visit to the region, Clinton is also visiting Egypt, meeting with new Egyptian president Muhammad Morsi. Her last visit to Egypt was in 2011 (pictured above).