Barak, Clinton Meeting Coincides with Geneva Convention Gathering

By Patrick Goodenough | July 7, 2008 | 8:07 PM EDT

Jerusalem (CNS) - President Clinton will hold talks with new Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak in Washington on Thursday July 15, focusing on "prospects for reaching a comprehensive, just and lasting peace between Israel and all its Arab neighbors."

On the same day, signatories to the Geneva Convention are scheduled to gather for an unprecedented session, at which Israel is expected to face condemnation for its policies in the disputed territories.

White House spokesman Joe Lockhart said in a statement Clinton and Barak would "review the full range of regional issues and discuss ways to further strengthen the close bilateral relationship between Israel and the United States."

While in the United States, Barak will also confer with Vice President Al Gore, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and other administration officials, meet Jewish leaders in New York over the weekend, and then hold a second meeting with Clinton before leaving the following week.

The trip follows a round of talks between Barak and regional Arab leaders, beginning Friday in Egypt.

Meanwhile the American Jewish Congress has asked Palestinian Authority chairman Yasser Arafat to call off the Geneva session, also scheduled for July 15.

"There could be no two events more contradictory in their purpose and their effect," AJC executive director Phil Baum wrote in a letter to Arafat.

"The Geneva meeting will burden the peace process; the White House meeting will facilitate its movement forward."

Baum said the gathering would constitute an obstacle in Barak's path "even as he seeks to make peace with your people."

"Mr. Chairman, we call on you to use your authority to cancel that UN meeting before it has the chance to poison the atmosphere. Just as you wisely canceled plans for the declaration of a Palestinian state in May, we call on you to send word to the UN that in your view the Geneva Convention should not take place."

Neither Israel nor the U.S. intends to send representatives to next week's session - which will be the first time in 50 years the Convention signatories have convened - and both have urged other countries not to attend.

Israel contends that a valuable humanitarian institution is being abused by the Arab states for narrow political purposes.

Barak is expected to raise Israel's objections to the meeting during his talks with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in Alexandria Friday.

Patrick Goodenough
Patrick Goodenough
Spencer Journalism Fellow