U.S. leaning toward indirect Mideast peace talks
Clinton to visit Israel next week; U.S. fears Palestinian-Israeli gaps will continue to delay negotiations.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will arrive in Israel on Saturday night for her first official visit since Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government was sworn in.
Clinton's visit underscores the goal of reaching a compromise that could see the resumption of peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians.
In light of the ever-wide gaps between the Israeli and Palestinian sides, voices are growing within the Obama administration to shift strategy and suffice with indirect - rather than direct - negotiations.
The secretary of state is now taking a more active role in the diplomatic process in the Middle East, which has thus far been overseen by special envoy George Mitchell.
Mitchell is due to arrive in Israel on Thursday for preparatory discussions prior to Clinton's trip.
Clinton is expected to meet Netanyahu, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and President Shimon Peres on Sunday. Before her arrival in Israel, Clinton will take part in a meeting of Arab foreign ministers in Morocco.
Netanyahu, meanwhile, will travel to the United States to address the United Jewish Communities General Assembly in Washington, which will take place from November 8 to November 10.
The prime minister's bureau said Netanyahu expects to meet with U.S. President Barack Obama during his stay in the capital.
Last week, Mitchell said it was premature to declare his efforts to revive Israeli-Palestinian peace talks as a failure. In a report submitted to Obama last week, Clinton said that little progress was made in advancing the peace process.
Clinton has said that Obama administration efforts should center on bolstering Abbas' position. Her comments were in a report to Obama last week on attempts to renew negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.
Meanwhile, Channel 10 News reported Tuesday night that Abbas has told the White House that he is considering stepping down because of the lack of progress in the peace process.
A senior political source who was privy to the State Department report noted that in it Clinton had stressed the significant setback to Abbas in Palestinian public opinion because of the initial decision not to press ahead with bringing the Goldstone report on the Gaza Strip to the Human Rights Council of the United Nations.
Days before the report was delivered to Obama, Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat went to Washington, where he warned of the repercussions of the difficult domestic situation faced by Abbas and the overall desperation in the Ramallah headquarters of the Palestinian Authority government over the stalled peace process.