Just days after issuing an ultimatum to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu regarding the Labor Party’s continued membership in the government, Defense Minister Ehud Barak traveled to the United States late Saturday night for talks with senior administration officials aimed at promoting the Palestinian peace process and cracking down on Iran.

In the meantime, an Arabic newspaper in London, Al-Quds al-Arabi, reported Saturday that 12 American warships and at least one Israeli corvette crossed through the Suez Canal on Friday. According to the report, thousands of Egyptian soldiers were deployed along the canal to protect the vessels. Both the purpose of the crossing and the significance of Israel’s participation were unclear.

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According to the report, traffic in the canal was halted for several hours to allow US Navy vessels to pass from the Mediterranean Sea to the Red Sea.

Barak will meet with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen, as well as with senior lawmakers on Capitol Hill. He will also travel to New York for talks with United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, which will mostly focus on the recent flotilla incident as well as Israeli policy vis-a-vis the Gaza Strip.

Barak’s trip comes at a tense time for Israel as it prepares to intercept two more flotillas on their way to the Gaza Strip. Two Iranian ships are expected to try and break the Israelimposed sea blockade on Gaza later this week, and the navy is also concerned that another flotilla from Lebanon will try to sail to Gaza.

Both are considered particularly contentious due to their points of origin, countries with which Israel is currently in a state of conflict.

Israel has warned that it will stop the ships, but is particularly concerned about the Lebanon flotilla. Due to the short distance between the countries, the navy has been put on high alert amid expectations that the Lebanese organizers will try to surprise Israel and send the ships when least expected.

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