November 23rd, 2012
06:02 PM ET

Behind the scenes of Clinton’s “shuttle diplomacy”

By Jill Dougherty

For both President Barack Obama and his Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, the bid to broker a cease-fire in Gaza was high-profile, high-risk diplomacy.

“It’s a significant decision to send the secretary of state into an uncertain situation that puts American credibility and influence on the line,” a senior State Department official tells CNN. “I have the beginnings of ulcers to show that this was not a done deal when we left” for the Middle East.

Planning for Clinton’s possible “shuttle diplomacy” trip to the Middle East – cutting short a trip with Obama to Southeast Asia – began Sunday, the official says. When Clinton and her staff arrived in Thailand, they began conversations with the president’s senior staff. Did the potential benefits of going outweigh the risks?

Over lunch in Myanmar, Obama and Clinton discussed gaps between Egyptian and Israeli proposals for a cease-fire and how the U.S. might most effectively play a supporting role.

On Monday, the president called key players, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Egyptian President Mohamed Morsy. By Tuesday, the decision had been made: Clinton would fly to the region. The staff began putting the wheels in motion for a mid-afternoon departure from Phnom Penh, Cambodia. She would arrive in Israel at 10 p.m. local time and go directly to a meeting with Netanyahu.
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What is the future of the Obama-Netanyahu relationship?
President Barack Obama talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the Oval Office May 18, 2009.
November 23rd, 2012
01:46 PM ET

What is the future of the Obama-Netanyahu relationship?

By Jamie Crawford

Amid the flurry of diplomatic congratulations over the maneuvering that led to a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas this week, the dual readouts of the roles played by President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu contained some interesting language.

A written statement detailing the telephone conversation between the two after an agreement was reached included the usual language of maintaining the U.S. commitment to Israeli security. But the White House also said that Obama "commended the prime minister for agreeing to the Egyptian cease-fire proposal – which the president recommended the prime minister to do."

Netanyahu's office released a statement that said he had "acceded" to Obama's recommendation to sign the deal and thanked the president for his support of Israel during the operation.

After a few years worth of headlines bemoaning the frosty relationship between the two, could a detente of sorts be in the offing? If so, would it give Obama additional leverage with Netanyahu as they move forward on even more complex problems like the Iranian nuclear crisis and the elusive search for peace between Israelis and Palestinians?
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Filed under: Iran • Israel • Israel-Gaza 2012 • Obama
With conflict stopped, Israeli military touts successes
November 21st, 2012
05:32 PM ET

With conflict stopped, Israeli military touts successes

By Adam Levine

The relentless pace of the Israeli airstrike on Gaza gave the country's military time to make a significant dent in the offensive capability of Hamas, the Israeli military said.

Over the eight day conflict, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) looked to deplete some of the estimated 12,000 rockets Hamas has in its arsenal and destroy tunnels that are said to be used to smuggle weapons.

"We are very satisfied with the achievements that we have had in this operation," Israel Defense Force spokeswoman Lt. Col. Avital Leibovich said on CNN's 'Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer.'

The operation was not without human cost. Nearly 150 Palestinian and Israelis, though mostly Palestinians, were killed and many more were injured.

But the IDF said the operation allowed it to accomplish "its pre-determined objectives for Operation Pillar of Defense, and has inflicted severe damage to Hamas and its military capabilities," according to a media release sent soon after the cease-fire took effect on Wednesday.

The military gains were a factor in Israel agreeing to stop the airstrikes, according to the IDF.

"These operational achievements provided the underlying framework for this evening's cease-fire agreement," the IDF release said.

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Filed under: Gaza • Israel • Israel-Gaza 2012 • Middle East • Palestine
U.S. considers increasing military presence in Mediterranean
An AV-8B Harrier aircraft lands on an amphibious assault ship
November 21st, 2012
04:22 PM ET

U.S. considers increasing military presence in Mediterranean

By Barbara Starr

Senior U.S. military officials are considering increasing the American military presence in the Mediterranean because of what they see as growing instability in recent months, CNN has learned.

"This is post-Benghazi," one military official told CNN. "We're looking at instability in Libya, Egypt, Syria and now Israel and Gaza."

The official who has direct knowledge of the discussions declined to be identified because of the sensitive nature of the information.

The Pentagon is looking at a number of options, according to military officials. The easiest would be to extend deployments of Navy ships passing through the region. FULL POST

November 20th, 2012
09:39 PM ET

Watching Israel's missile defense

All eyes are on Israel's missile defense systems as the country's Iron Dome missiles have intercepted about 85 percent of the Hamas rockets fired at civilians.

CNN's Barbara Starr reports on why the violence may be sending cautionary signs to Iran and Hamas who will be looking for the system's potential weak spots.

What would bring an end to Gaza conflict?
Fire rises during an explosion following an Israeli strike on the border tunnels between Egypt and Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on November 20, 2012.
November 20th, 2012
07:06 PM ET

What would bring an end to Gaza conflict?

By Jill Dougherty

A short time after arriving in Jerusalem for a late-night meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke slowly and deliberately in outlining the purpose of her trip.

"The goal must be a durable outcome that promotes regional stability and advances the security and legitimate aspirations of Israelis and Palestinians alike," Clinton said about ending the violence in Gaza.

You could almost see Clinton underlining the word "durable." Standing beside her, Netanyahu had a similar emphasis, speaking of the desire for a "long-term solution to this problem."

Too many cease-fires in the region have been shattered and long-time experts on the Middle East cautioned that guns that fall silent often don't stay silent for long.
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Clinton heads to the Middle East
November 20th, 2012
05:23 AM ET

Clinton heads to the Middle East

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is headed to the region in an attempt to help resolve the incessant violence.

Clinton left Cambodia late Tuesday for a trip to Israel, Ramallah and Egypt.

"She'll meet with regional leaders, beginning with our Israeli partners, to consult on the situation in Gaza," Deputy National Security Director Ben Rhodes said. Rhodes said Clinton will not be meeting with Hamas leaders but rather the Palestinian authority.

He said the visits will support the "de-escalation of the violence and a durable outcome that ends the rocket attacks on Israeli cities and restores broader calm in the region."

"Our bottom line is to end the rocket fire. We're open to any number of ideas for achieving that goal and discuss any number of ideas for accomplishing that goal but it's going to have to begin with reduction of tensions and, you know, space created for the situation to calm, " Rhodes said. "So, we'll be discussing going forward as we've been over the last several days, what are the various ways that we can accomplish that goal."

"She will emphasize the United States' interest in a peaceful outcome that protects and enhances Israel's security and regional stability; that can lead to improved conditions for the civilian residents of Gaza; and that can reopen the path to fulfill the aspirations of Palestinians and Israelis for
two states living in peace and security," according to a State Department statement. "She will continue to express U.S. concern for the loss of civilian life on both sides."


Filed under: Diplomacy • Egypt • Hillary Clinton • Israel • Israel-Gaza 2012 • Middle East • Palestine • Secretary of State
November 19th, 2012
05:49 PM ET

Why Israel might hesitate to start a ground invasion

By Mike Mount

Thousands of Israeli troops with tanks and armored vehicles are poised on Gaza's borders ready to move in if Israel believes there is no chance for a cease-fire in its conflict with Hamas.

The Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Michael Oren, told reporters Monday at a briefing at the Israeli Embassy in Washington, DC that Israel would like to avoid a ground invasion, but war planning is complete and they are ready to move in if necessary.

But Israel, which continued to press its air offensive against Gaza militants for a sixth day on Monday, is said to be well aware that a ground invasion would carry broad risks.

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