Deputy secretary of state heading to Israel


WASHINGTON (JTA) — The U.S. deputy secretary of state will travel to Israel this week.

John Negroponte will be in Israel Monday through Wednesday to meet with senior Israeli officials "to discuss the range of bilateral and regional issues that encompass our close relationship with Israel," a State Department statement said.

President Bush has said in recent months that he wants to hand off an Israeli-Palestinian peace process as close to an agreement as possible before he leaves office on Jan. 20.

"I think we’ve left it in good shape," Bush said an interview Dec. 5 with Saudi-owned MBC-TV.  "We’ve left it with the vision intact. In other words, a lot of people now share the vision of two states. As I say, there’s been progress between the Israeli prime minister and the Palestinian president toward what a state should look like. I think the Israelis are getting to be more comfortable with the notion that a state won’t create less security for them but more security for them."

Separately, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert spoke "at length" with U.S. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.), President-elect Barack Obama’s secretary of state nominee, Olmert’s office said.

"The Prime Minister views Senator Clinton as a true friend of Israel," a statement from the Prime Minister’s Office said. "She promised that she would continue to act to bring peace and stability to the Middle East."

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