U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is visiting Israel Sunday and Monday but will steer clear of the Palestinian Authority, according to the PA’s Saeb Erekat, senior official of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and quoted by the Bethlehem-based Ma'an news agency.
He pointed out that Clinton and PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas met in Paris last week. Choosing not to include Ramallah on her tour may reflect the faint hope of a return to “negotiations” with Israel, as well as other American priorities, mainly Iran and the November presidential elections.
She will meet with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, President Shimon Peres and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman.
A visit that excludes the Palestinian Authority could be used by President Barack Obama to try to convince American Jewish voters that he is committed to Israel.
He has been fighting an uphill battle against declining Jewish support since shortly after his election in 2008. Six months later, Clinton said in the presence to the visiting Egyptian foreign minister and on the eve of Abbas' arrival, “He [Obama] wants to see a stop to settlements – not some settlements, not outposts, not ‘natural growth’ exceptions.’”
On the side of the debt-ridden Palestinian Authority, the highest immediate priority seems to be money, or more precisely, the lack of it.
Abbas is planning to travel to Egypt and Qatar this week to appeal for funds, a plea similar to that which he has put forward to Saudi Arabia. Arab nations have pledged billions of dollars to the Palestinian Authority over the past several years, but the pledges, for the most part, have yet to materialize.
One argument being used by Ramallah officials to pressure for financial assistance is the possibility that Hamas will exploit the situation and buy support beyond its influence in Gaza.