Israel-US Officials Meet amidst Regional Shifts

Photo Courtesy of UN Photo/Ryan Brown

While the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog meets with Iran, and following major political changes in Israel, the Israeli Defense Minister left for meetings with United States’ officials. Ehud Barak was set to meet with his American counterpart Leon Panetta, as well as other senior US administration officials.

While further details of the visit weren’t released in the Israeli Ministry of Defense press statement, Panetta and Barak shouldn’t run out of things to discuss. Barak’s travel comes as officials from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and Iran met in Vienna to discuss Tehran’s nuclear program.

In addition, negotiations are set to continue next week on May 23 between Iran and the P5+1—the US, the UK, France, Russia, China and Germany—over the Iranian nuclear program. The talks resumed last month.

Israel has seen it’s own headlines in recent days. The governing coalition just expanded to include the center-left Kadima party in a unity government that postpones elections for over a year. The shift in the Israeli Cabinet could be felt in Israeli policy as well. Kadima leader Shaul Mofaz has in the past presented multiple compromises on the Palestinian peace process that appear to run contrary to what the government has done thus far.

The Palestinian peace process itself was in the news recently as the Israelis sent their response letter to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on the process over the weekend. Furthermore, a deal was reached this week that ends support for terrorism among a group of hunger-striking Palestinian security prisoners in exchange for Israel granting them visitation rights and other privileges.

Barak and Panetta have met on multiple occasions since Panetta assumed his position as Secretary of Defense.

(By Joshua Spurlock,, May 15, 2012)