Lieberman to Meet With Clinton in Washington Next Week

The two will be meeting for the first time in 18 months; visit will mark the second time that Lieberman will visit the U.S. capital since becoming Israel's foreign minister.

For the first time since 2010, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman will meet with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Washington next week.

This is only the second time that Lieberman will be visiting the United States capital since he assumed the position of foreign minister almost three years ago. He is due to depart for the U.S. on Monday, and will be meeting with senior officials in Congress and leaders of Jewish organizations.

Avigdor Lieberman and Hillary Clinton - AP - 2009

Haaretz has found that Clinton was initially supposed to be absent during Lieberman's visit, or at least that is what the State Department told the Israeli ambassador to the U.S.

Michael Oren. However, Clinton's plans changed in the past several days and her office notified Israel's foreign ministry that she does, after all, want to meet with Lieberman.

It is still unknown if the two will be holding a joint press conference. The last time that Lieberman was in Washington, in June 2009, the two's joint press conference turned into a public confrontation on Israeli settlement construction. A half hour after the press conference concluded, Clinton broke her hand while falling down the stairs.

Several days ago, the State Department announced an initiative for further contact between Clinton and senior State Department officials, and Lieberman. In the statement, a State Department spokesman listed the two meetings Lieberman had with Clinton in the past, as well as a meeting between the foreign minister and the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice.

The State Department spokesman added that the U.S. ambassador to Israel, Daniel Shapiro, maintains continuous, routine contact with Lieberman.

Lieberman and Clinton have only met three times. Their last meeting was in September 2010 in Jerusalem, when Clinton came to Israel for talks with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

Over the last year and a half, Clinton and Lieberman had only maintained contact by phone. In this way, the two had discussed Clinton's attempt to bring an end to the diplomatic crisis between Israel and Turkey. At the time, Clinton wanted to make sure that Lieberman will not dismantle the government should Netanyahu decided to apologize to the Turkish government regarding the events of the Gaza flotilla. Lieberman then clarified, also publically, that he will oppose the move but will not dismantle the coalition.

In every meeting he had had with Clinton until today, Lieberman had presented a pessimistic outlook regarding the chances that Israeli-Palestinian negotiations would succeed. Lieberman's statements angered Clinton, which caused a rift between the two.

Moreover, several rightist bills that were initiated by Lieberman's party, Yisrael Beiteinu, such as a proposal to cut off foreign funding to Israeli NGOs, were highly criticized by Clinton.