Secretary Clinton has just arrived in Egypt on her first visit to the Middle East as Secretary of State. She’s here for the Gaza Donor's Conference in Sharm El Sheikh and is planning to announce a significant U.S. financial pledge to respond to the immediate needs of the Palestinian people affected by the conflict in Gaza earlier this year. Assistance to Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza will, of course, be the highest agenda item for everyone at the conference, but there’ll be a lot more going on in the hallways and meeting rooms. There’ll be at least 70 countries represented at the conference, at least half of them represented by a head of state or a foreign minister. Many of the key players in the Middle East will be gathered and focused not only on the immediate needs in Gaza but also on the larger issue: comprehensive peace in the Middle East.
What I think sets this gathering apart is that it’s happening against a backdrop of cautious optimism. This optimism is fueled by the U.S. administration’s commitment to moving forward on Middle East peace, the appointment of Special Envoy Mitchell, and the Secretary’s trip to the region as well as hope that the conference is the catalyst for peace and security for the people throughout the region.