- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Officials say Clinton to visit Israel, West Bank

JERUSALEM (AP) — U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will visit Israel and the West Bank next week for her first trip to the region as America’s top diplomat, Israeli and Palestinian officials said Monday.

The Israeli officials said Clinton will arrive in Israel on March 2 for two days of meetings with the country’s top leaders. Israel is currently ruled by a caretaker government as Likud Party leader Benjamin Netanyahu cobbles together a new coalition.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because the visit had not been announced by the State Department, which has not released Clinton’s schedule for next week.

Yasser Abed Rabbo, a senior aide to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, said Clinton also would visit the West Bank during her stay.

U.S. officials have no formal contacts with the Islamic militant group Hamas, which runs a separate Palestinian administration in the Gaza Strip.

Clinton said last week during her Asia trip that she would attend an international donors conference in Egypt on March 2 to discuss reconstruction in Gaza.

She provided no other details, but a U.S. official said Monday that the Obama administration intended to donate hundreds of millions of dollars in humanitarian and rebuilding funds to the Palestinian Authority to help Gaza recover from Israel’s offensive against Hamas last month.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the donation had not received final approval, said the exact amount was still to be determined.

Associated Press writer Robert Burns in Washington contributed to this report.

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