Clinton Joins Diplomatic Push To End Gaza Violence

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is in the Middle East to push for an end to the fighting between Israel and Hamas. She has met separately with Israeli and Palestinian Authority leaders. Cairo is her final destination, where she'll be meeting with Egypt's president who stands at the center of negotiations.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

Let's turn now to those diplomatic efforts aimed at bringing some sort of peace. NPR's Philip Reeves is following that story, and joined us from Ramallah on the West Bank.

Good morning.

PHILIP REEVES, BYLINE: Good morning.

MONTAGNE: Bring us up to speed, if you will, on negotiations since yesterday. A lot's been going on.

REEVES: Well, Mrs. Clinton arrived yesterday evening very late and had a meeting with the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. And today's she's come to Ramallah, which is, of course, on the West Bank. And this is also the headquarters of the Palestinian National Authority. And she's been meeting the Palestinian National Authority's President Mahmoud Abbas. This is interesting, because President Abbas's influence over events in Gaza - which, of course, are at the center of all this - is extremely limited. Gaza is governed by Hamas. The West Bank is governed by the Palestinian Authority. And they are quite separate, and indeed have not yet really patched up a big rift that occurred between them a few years back.

MONTAGNE: So why meet with President Abbas?

REEVES: Well, I think one of the issues here is the anxiety on the part of the United States to retain the legitimacy of the Palestinian Authority. Remember, it supports the two-state solution. Hamas officially does not recognize the state of Israel, and the U.S. cannot negotiate directly with Hamas because it's regarded with a terrorist organization by the U.S. So I think one of the things they're keen to do is to ensure that the Palestinian Authority is kept in the circle in order to retain its legitimacy and to create the impression that it's included in this process.

MONTAGNE: And, Phil, the Palestinian territories, Gaza and the West Bank, have followed different paths in recent years. So what kind of reaction is there in Ramallah on the West Bank to what is going on in Gaza?

REEVES: People here are undoubtedly angry by what they're seeing on their TV screens and what they're reading on the Internet about what's going on in Gaza. There's no doubt about that. And there have been some demonstrations in recent days. But it is important to remember that the West Bank is, in many ways, a very different place from Gaza. And the Palestinians here see Gaza as pretty remote. So I think there is a strong, you know, emotional tie there, but I don't think it amounts to much more than that at this stage - by which I mean I don't think, at the present time, we're going to see anger boil over.

MONTAGNE: Looking across the border to Egypt, Phil, what hope is there for a solution coming out of Cairo, where at this moment in time, that's the center of all these negotiations?

REEVES: Well, it's important to remember that the Egyptians are close to Hamas, who govern Gaza. The president's roots are with the Muslim Brotherhood, which is the parental organization of Hamas. And I think the United States is keen for Egypt to play a pivotal role in all of this. So I think here, everybody really is concentrating on their attention on what happens next there, and they'll looking for or hoping for some form of a truce. I think the word ceasefire might be overstating it. It's important to remember that there is a great lack of trust and there's been a lot of violence. And bridging the gaps that exist between the two sides in this conflict is going to be difficult.

MONTAGNE: Phil, thanks very much.

REEVES: You're welcome.

MONTAGNE: NPR's Philip Reeves, speaking to us from Ramallah on the West Bank.

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