Report: Kerry, if confirmed, to visit Israel, Palestinian territories next month

Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) is expected to visit Israel and the Palestinian territories next month in one of his very first trips as secretary of State, Israeli officials told the Haaretz newspaper on Thursday.

If true, the trip would be the clearest indication yet of President Obama's desire to quickly relaunch peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians that have stalled over the past three years. The news comes amid reports that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu may tap Yair Lapid of the centrist Yesh Atid party, which favors a two-state solution, to be his next foreign minister.

Kerry's office would not confirm the report. The White House had no comment.

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An early visit by Kerry would also be a tacit acknowledgment that realities on the ground have caught up to President Obama's desire to pivot to Asia and extricate the United States from the Middle East's crises. Hillary Clinton's opened her tenure at the State Department with a one-week trip to Japan, Indonesia, South Korea and China.

“I have chosen Asia on my first trip as secretary of state to convey that America’s relationships across the Pacific are indispensable to addressing the challenges and seizing the opportunities of the 21st century,” Clinton said at the time.

Kerry sang a different tune during his confirmation hearing on Thursday.

“I want to take on the word 'pivot',” he said. “I think 'pivot' implies that we're turning away from somewhere else. I want to emphasize we are not turning away from anywhere else. Whatever we do in [Asia] should not come, and I hope will not come, at the expense of relationships in Europe or the in the Mid-East or elsewhere. It can't.”