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New secretary of state Kerry to visit Israel
By DANIEL CLINTON
02/02/2013
After being sworn in as US secretary of state in place of Clinton, Kerry to visit Mideast as soon as mid-February, CNN reports.
 
Newly sworn-in US Secretary of State John Kerry plans to visit the Middle East as part of his first trip in his new role, including stops in Israel and Egypt.

The trip could take place as soon as mid-February, CNN reported on Friday, citing a US official.

Kerry, replacing Hillary Clinton as secretary of state, was confirmed by the Senate on Tuesday before being sworn in on Friday.

Kerry suggested this week that time was running out for a two-state solution with Israel living alongside a sovereign Palestinian state. He said it would be “disastrous” if it did.

Former senior US peace negotiators said they expected Obama to proceed cautiously and to let Kerry take soundings for any fresh effort. That could allow Obama to avoid investing too much personal capital in a fresh effort until there was a prospect of real progress.

“I believe that Kerry and Obama are committed and interested in doing something,” said Aaron David Miller, a vice president at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, who advised Democratic and Republican secretaries of state on Arab-Israeli peace negotiations from 1982 to 2003.

However, Miller said the two sides were too far apart right now for any big initiative to succeed and that a more circumspect approach made more sense.

“Unlike last time around...

[Obama] is going to be quite patient and deliberate in avoiding the mistakes he made during his previous run, which is why it’s really hard right now... to predict the arc of any sort of big initiative,” he said.

While neither Kerry nor Obama have specified what approach they might take, some of Kerry’s allies outside of government have suggested that he wants to move aggressively.

Miller and other former US diplomats interviewed said they were not privy to what plans, if any, the two men might have.

However, they said Obama’s second term offered a new chance with Kerry, a chief diplomat who has made no secret of his interest in the Middle East, and that the January 22 Israeli election created a somewhat better environment for peace despite the intrinsic challenges.

Having watched the peace process unfold, and unravel, from his perch on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee over the past three decades, analysts say Kerry has a deep knowledge of the issues and its players.

Among the obstacles are the divisions within the Israeli and Palestinian societies about making peace; a sense of disbelief that peace itself may ever be possible; and the rise of Islamist parties, notably in Egypt, that may be less supportive of it.

At his January 24 confirmation hearing, Kerry said, “My hope... my prayer is that perhaps this can be a moment where we can renew some kind of effort to get the parties into a discussion.

“We need to try to find a way forward, and I happen to believe that there is a way forward,” he said, but added: “I also believe that if we can’t be successful, the door... to the possibility of a two-state solution could shut on everybody and that would be disastrous.”

Reuters contributed to this report.
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