U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is heading to Israel and Egypt today to join the diplomatic effort to bring a cease fire to the conflict in Gaza. Clinton was traveling with President Barack Obama on his brief tour of Southeast Asia this weekend, but will head directly to Jerusalem, rather going home with the rest of the delegation. She reportedly plans to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and later with leaders of the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, but she will not meet directly with leaders of Hamas. Clinton will also travel to Cairo to meet with Egyptian officials there. Egypt has been trying to negotiate a truce between Hamas and Israel, but has had no luck so far.
Clinton may not be able to broker a peace herself, but her presence alone could have an impact on the conflict as Israel is unlikely to launch a ground offense while a U.S. diplomat is visiting. (CNN reports that the ground offensive is on hold for the moment.) The decision to send her to the region also underscores that the United States is taking a deeper interest in putting a stop to the shooting. U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon will also be in Israel to add to global pressure coming down on both sides.
The key to a cease fire appears to be the amount of influence (or lack thereof) that Egypt has on Hamas. The U.S. holds significant influence itself in Israel, but without similar pressure coming to bear on the other side, neither army will stop the onslaught of rockets and missiles streaming in and out of Gaza. Other Arab League delegates are in Gaza today, along with Turkey's foreign minister, to express solidarity with the Palestinians, while also agreeing to back Egypt's peace efforts. The result is world community that's united on the need for a cease fire, even as nations continue to offer support to their preferred side.
In another bizarre incident involving U.S. diplomats in Israel, a security guard at the U.S. embassy in Tel Aviv was injured today after a man carrying a pitchfork and a knife attacked him and other guards. Shots were fired and the guard was injured in the leg, but no other injuries were reported and the assailant was arrested. No motive was given, but officials say the attack does not appear to be related to the offensive in Gaza, as the assailant was a 41-year-old Jewish Israeli with a criminal history.