UPDATED ON:
Tuesday, March 03, 2009 
09:03  Mecca time, 06:03  GMT     
 
News Middle East  
 
Clinton set to meet Israeli leaders   
 
 
Clinton looks set to maintain Washington's tough line against the Palestinian 
faction Hamas [AFP]    Hillary
Clinton, the US secretary of state, is set to meet Israeli leaders in
Jerusalem, with the shaky ceasefire in Gaza high on her agenda.
She is due to meet on Tuesday Shimon Peres, Israel's president, and
Benyamin Netanyahu, the prime minister-designate who is trying to put
together a government. Clinton is
also set to meet Tzipi Livni, the outgoing foreign minister and leader
of Kadima who led the Israeli team in recent negotiations with the
Palestinians.
Livni has rejected overtures from Netanyahu to form a coalition government and 
is set to take her party into the opposition.
Hopes
are high for Clinton after the administration of George Bush, the
former US president, was criticised for coming to Arab-Israeli
peacemaking only in the final stages of his presidency.
'Difficult and complex'
Barack Obama, the US president, has said the issue will be a
priority for his administration and Clinton said she would push on
"many fronts" early on.
"This is a very difficult and complex set of issues," she said before her 
arrival in Jerusalem on Monday.
 
Israel's continued settlement building has  strained the peace process [AFP] 
Peace talks brokered by her husband Bill Clinton, a former president, broke 
down in 2000, his final year of his presidency. 
Talks between Israel and the Palestinians were relaunched at a
US-sponsored conference in Annapolis, Maryland, in November 2007, but
the talks were halted after Israel's military offensive on Gaza.
Clinton arrived in Israel from an international donors' conference
in the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, where countries pledged $5bn
to help rebuild Gaza following Israel's war on the territory.
The US pledged $900m at the conference, but Clinton maintained
Washington's tough line against Hamas, saying the money would be
channelled through the Palestinian Authority rather than being paid to
Hamas, which runs Gaza.
Peace problems
At the conference, Arab and European ministers pressed Clinton to
push the Israelis to open up border crossings into Gaza and stop Jewish
settlement activity.
Israel's blockade of the territory prevents supplies, including construction 
materials, from crossing into Gaza.
Continued settlement building by Israel has also strained the wider
peace process and Netanyahu appears unlikely to put an end to the
policy.
Peace Now, the Israeli anti-settlement group, has said the
government is planning to build 73,000 new homes in the occupied West
Bank.
The Israeli government says only a small number of the housing plans
have been officially approved, but Peace Now claims that 15,000 units
have been granted approval and that nearly 9,000 have already been
built.
Asked whether she would raise the issues such as settlement building and the 
Gaza blockade, Clinton sidestepped the question.
Shaky truce
An unsteady ceasefire has been in place between Israel and Hamas
since January, but Israel has carried out a number of air raid on the
Hamas-run territory and Palestinian fighters have also fired rockets
into southern Israel.
Before arriving in Jerusalem, Clinton said she was troubled by the
continuing rocket attacks and reiterated that Israel had a right to
defend itself, a message she will likely stress again publicly on
Tuesday.
Clinton will visit the West Bank on Wednesday to meet Mahmoud Abbas,
the Palestinian president, and Salam Fayyad, the Palestinian prime
minister. She also plans to address students at a school there.  
 Source: Agencies   
 
 
      
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