Clinton kicks off state visit, meets Liberman, Peres

US secretary of state scheduled to meet Netanyahu, Barak in talks expected to focus on Egypt, Iran, the peace process and Syria; Pollard supporters call for Israeli agent's release outside of President's Residence.

Liberman and Clinton 370 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Liberman and Clinton 370
(photo credit: REUTERS)
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met with Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman on Monday morning before preceding to the President's Residence for a meeting with President Shimon Peres.
Clinton landed in Israel Sunday night for a 24-hour visit in which she was also scheduled to meet Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.
Supporters of convicted Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard demonstrated across from the President's Residence in Jerusalem on Monday, ahead of Clinton's visit.
With the summer school holiday in full swing, the demonstrators were mostly school children who held placards of Pollard, Peres, former US secretary of state Henry Kissinger and various well known US personalities who have called for Pollard's release.
The children were being coached in advance of Clinton's arrival to call out in English, "justice, justice, free pollard now, justice, justice, he should be released, justice, justice, enough is enough."
Clinton arrived in Jerusalem Sunday evening for a 24-hour visit, landing in the country just as White House National Security Adviser Tom Donilon was leaving. US Ambassador Daniel Shapiro and his wife Julie Fisher greeted Clinton as she disembarked her flight at Ben Gurion airport.
Donilon’s visit, which was veiled in secrecy, was only announced Sunday by the White House in a terse statement that said Donilon visited Israel from July 14 to 15 for consultations with Netanyahu, Barak and National Security Adviser Ya’acov Amidror.
National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor issued a statement saying only that “the national security adviser reaffirmed the United States’s unwavering commitment to Israel’s security.
His visit was the latest in a series of ongoing US consultations with Israeli officials on a range of regional security issues.”
Donilon was last here during a weekend in February when he held marathon, indepth talks with Israeli officials on the Iranian issue.
Officials in the Prime Minister’s Office refrained Sunday from providing any details about the content of Donilon’s recent meetings.
The national security adviser arrived a day after US Deputy Secretary of State William Burns led the American team in the biannual US-Israeli strategic dialogue. This parade of high-level US officials – Burns, Donilon and Clinton – comes two weeks before the scheduled visit to Israel by presumptive Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney.
Clinton, making her first visit to Israel since September 2010, arrived from Cairo, where she met Sunday with Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi a day after meeting newly elected President Mohamed Mursi.
Israeli officials said her talks in Egypt will be high on the agenda of Clinton’s talks here.
Clinton won’t be meeting PA President Mahmoud Abbas, because she met him less than two weeks ago in Paris.
According to Israeli officials, Jerusalem is eager to hear Clinton’s impressions of the situation in Cairo, the dynamics between Mursi and Tantawi and where she thinks the Egyptian leadership is heading. Israel also wants to hear what she thinks is the best way to move the Israeli-Egyptian relationship forward.
Iran is also expected to play a dominant role in the talks, with Israel keen on getting an update on the status of the talks between Iran and the world powers known as the P5+1 – the US, China, Russia, France, Britain and Germany.
In a meeting with diplomatic officials last week, Netanyahu spoke of the consequences of a nuclear Iran even if Israel was left entirely out of the equation.
In that situation, he said, a nuclear Iran would mean nuclear proliferation in the world’s least stable area, with Turkey, Egypt and Saudi Arabia sure to pursue nuclear capability if Iran achieves it.
According to Netanyahu, Iran with nuclear weapons would also mean that a number of Arab countries, which today are watching carefully where the “regional winds are blowing,” would align themselves with Iran.
Currently, by contrast, Iran’s only ally in the Arab world is Syria.
In addition, Netanyahu said, Iran’s terrorist proxies in the region – Hamas and Hezbollah – would be empowered and enjoy an Iranian nuclear umbrella.
The official said the Israel-Palestinian diplomatic track would also be discussed with Clinton, with Israel sure to tell the secretary of state that it is working on a package of incentives to get the Palestinians back to the negotiation table. Israel is also expected to tell Clinton that continued Palestinian talks about unilateral steps at the UN or forming a government with an unrepentant Hamas, would have a “negative ripple effect” on the diplomatic process and “force Israel to respond.”
Syria is assumed to be the fourth major issue on the agenda, with Israel expected to express its concerns about the security of chemical weapons currently in the possession of the Assad regime. Israel and the international community are watching the stockpile of chemical weapons very carefully, with some concern that if there are signs that these weapons, or other strategic weapons, are being transferred to third parties such as Hezbollah, Israel might be forced to take preventive military action.