Secretary of State Rice's visit to the region raises a new regional agenda. The new agenda may indicate that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has lost its central focus within the regional context.
Secretary of State Rice began her Middle East tour with a stop in Saudi Arabia on Tuesday. From there, Rice will travel to Egypt, where she will meet with eight Arab foreign ministers from Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and four additional gulf-states who are considered moderate Arab states in the region.
The list of issues Rice would like to discuss in the meeting include: renewal of the peace process, the situation in Iraq, the Iranian nuclear crisis, the Darfur crisis in Sudan, the fragile Lebanon situation, Syria's role in the region, and developments in Somalia.
The Reut Institute forewarns that the current agenda presented by Rice indicates a change in regional priorities. Moreover, it shows the new held understanding that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is only one, and not necessarily the most important, in a long line of regional issues. This change can also be seen through the new Arab Peace Initiative and in the speech made by Rice's adviser, Phillip Zelikow.
Israel should take into consideration that the regional and American change of priorities may force it to make adjustments in its policy towards the Palestinians. On the other hand, the change may also present a window of opportunity for Israeli influence in other regional issues as well.