Clinton Meets Livni in U.S. Ahead of Speech on Mideast Talks

Clinton-Livni meeting at the State Department marks the first time the opposition leader has met with the U.S. secretary of state in Washington since Benjamin Netanyahu became prime minister.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met with Kadima chairwoman and opposition leader Tzipi Livni at the State Department in Washington on Friday, only a few days after the U.S. and Israel announced that talks between Jerusalem and Washington over a new freeze on West Bank settlement construction in exchange for a set of U.S. guarantees had hit a dead end.

The meeting, initiated by Clinton, marks the first time that Livni has been invited for a meeting with Clinton in Washington since Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was elected in early 2009. Until now, American officials had only met with Livni in Israel, so as not to give the appearance of interfering in Israel's internal politics.

Clinton Livni Dec. 27, 2007 	(Shahar Azran / POLARIS)
Shahar Azran / POLARIS

It is not clear whether the meeting represents an American attempt to send a message of dissatisfaction to Netanyahu in the wake Israel's failure to extend the settlement construction freeze, but it is likely the meeting will not be viewed positively by Netanyahu.

Before meeting with Livni, Clinton met with Saeb Erekat, the head of the Palestinian negotiating team, who was in Washington to discuss an American proposal to renew U.S.-supervised indirect talks between Israel and the Palestinians in the wake of the failure of the direct talks held between Israel and the Palestinians in September.

Direct talks stalled after Israel's 10-month freeze of West Bank settlement construction expired on September 26.

The meeting held on Thursday in Washington between Clinton, George Mitchell, White House officials and Netanyahu adviser Isaac Molho ended without results. Sources in Washington described the meeting with Molho as "not good."

Clinton is to give a speech to the Saban Forum in Washington on Friday night in which she will outline how exchanges with Israel over extending the settlement freeze failed. Clinton is expected to explain the way forward for the Obama administration in its efforts to advance the peace process in the Middle East, such as the proposal to renew indirect talks.

Before her speech, Clinton will hold short meetings with Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, where the Saban Forum is convening.