DC talk about Obama visit to Israel this year continues

White House senior adviser tells Peres at Presidential Conference that US president "gives you his best."

June 22, 2011 16:08
2 minute read.
Dennis Ross, senior White House adviser on the ME.

dennis ross_311 reuters. (photo credit: Gary Cameron / Reuters)

Discussions in Washington regarding a visit this year by US President Barack Obama are continuing, even though plans for him to come to Shimon Peres’s Israeli Presidential Conference in Jerusalem currently under way were scuttled by the dust-up last month with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in Washington, according to a source close to the White House.

Instead of a visit by Obama, White House senior adviser Dennis Ross told Peres on Wednesday that Obama “gives you his best” and “marvels along with all of us that at 87, you maintain vision, vitality and the moral courage to continue to shape the vision of your country.”

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With American Jewish leaders pressing Obama to come to Israel in a bid to win the trust of a skeptical Israeli public, there were numerous reports in the spring that he would indeed make it to Peres’s conference, and – according to the source – the US president expressed serious interest a number of months ago.

The tension with Netanyahu generated by Obama’s proposal for negotiations with the Palestinians to start using the 1967 lines, with mutually agreed land swaps, as a baseline, thwarted that idea, the source said.

According to the source, it would be important for Obama to come to Israel by the end of the year to avoid the perception that if he came in 2012, it would be only because of the presidential elections in November that year. The source said the matter was being discussed.

According to an Israeli government official, however, an Obama visit has never come up in any formal context.

Former US ambassador to Israel Martin Indyk, a strong Obama supporter, said at the Presidents Conference on Wednesday that Obama’s failure to come to Israel since taking office in January 2009 was “a bit of a head-scratcher.

“I feel this president should have come to Israel, that he should have addressed the Israeli public,” he said. “I can’t get an explanation about what this is about. The consequence is that he has essentially ignored Israeli public opinion, and Israelis can’t stand that.”

The Israeli frustration over Obama’s failure to come to Israel was unnecessary “in light of his commitment” to the country, Indyk said.

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