Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is expected to visit Israel as well as the Palestinian areas around June 18, almost two months ahead of the intended pullout from Gaza Strip settlements and four northern West Bank settlements, U.S. official sources said on Sunday.


Although no details were given on the main purpose of Rice’s visit, observers estimate that it aims to focus on whether Palestinian security forces will be ready to assume control when Israel begins its pullout in mid-August.
Rice already visited the area this year in early February.  This would be her second visit to the area which may reflects an increasing attention from Washington’s side towards boosting the Middle East peace process.
At that time, Rice said that Israel has some hard decisions to make as it moves toward peace with the Palestinians and the creation of a neighboring democracy.
‘This is a hopeful time, but it is a time also of great responsibility for all of us to make certain that we act on the words that we speak,” she said.
While Rice was referring to the evacuation of settlements in the Gaza Strip, Palestinians believe this should be a first among many evacuations that Israel should carry out in order to make peace with the Palestinians.