Absence of Barak in Cairo may be seen as Egyptian president's endorsement of Livni in elections.
By HERB KEINON
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak extended an invitation on Monday to Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni to meetings in Cairo on Thursday, according to an announcement put out by Livni's office on Monday. According to the statement, the two will talk about the security situation in the south "and other issues."
Livni received the invitation during a conversation she had earlier in the day with Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit.
The invitation to Livni, and not to Defense Minister Ehud Barak, is certain to spark speculation that this represented an indirect Egyptian endorsement of Livni in the upcoming elections. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert reportedly approved the trip.
The trip will come just a matter of days after Yuval Diskin, the head of the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) said that Egypt was not presently an effective broker in negotiations with Hamas, because the trust between Hamas and Egypt had broken down.
Livni told Gheit that Israel could not accept a situation where Hamas continued to attack Israeli communities in the south. She said Israel had an obligation to protect its citizens.
Livni passed a similar message on to US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, as the foreign minister spearheaded a public diplomacy blitz to try and explain the situation in the south to governments around the world.
The problem, according to one diplomatic official, was that in most capitals the policymakers were already off on holiday vacations.
Nevertheless, Israel's representatives abroad were armed with talking points describing what the citizens around the Gaza Strip were going through, and how Israel had an obligation to protect them.
According to diplomatic officials, there was a large degree of understanding for Israel's plight vis-Ã -vis Hamas, but the concern abroad was that any Israeli military response be "proportional."
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