US Ambassador Dan Shapiro said Wednesday that
President Barack Obama’s upcoming visit to
Israel would be a display of the close ties between the two states, and dismissed speculation on Wednesday that the timing of the trip is somehow aimed at impacting
the coalition talks underway in the wake of last month's Knesset elections.
“Obviously we don’t play a role and have no
intention of interfering in Israeli coalition negotiations,” Shapiro told The
Jerusalem Post, responding to claims that the surprise announcement of a presidential visit, likely next month, might be aimed at
getting Yesh Atid’s Yair Lapid and Tzipi Livni to join the
One Israeli government official echoed Shapiro’s comments,
saying it was “provincial” to think that the US president’s decision to travel
to Amman, Jerusalem and Ramallah in late March revolved around an effort to get
Lapid or Tzipi Livni in the coalition.
“I don’t think he
thinks in those terms,” the official said.
Neither Shapiro nor Israeli
officials would confirm media reports that Obama would arrive on March
Nor would they say how long Obama would stay in Israel, though he is expected
to spend one or two nights in Jerusalem.
Shapiro said the planned visit
represented a “continuation of the close coordination” between the US and Israel
that existed during Obama’s first term, and which would continue in the second
term as well. He said the agenda items of the talks in Israel included
preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, dealing with the collapse of
President Bashar Assad’s regime and the volatile situation in Syria, ensuring
Israel’s ability to defend itself and the Palestinian issue.
he did not feel Obama’s decision to come so early on in his second term was in
any way an admission that he had erred in not visiting Israel during the early
days of his first term, when he made trips to Egypt, Turkey and Saudi
“This is something he wanted to do early in his second term
because of the very pressing agenda we have together with Israel, and he thinks
doing it early is an important way of getting those conversations set for the
period ahead – whether it is one year ahead, or the period they will serve
together,” the ambassador said.
Asked about Obama’s expectations for the
visit, Shapiro said he wanted to“find ways of demonstrating the depth, breadth and quality of the Israeli-US
partnership, and deepen the consultations we have on a regular basis throughout
our government on all those key items on the agenda.”
Shapiro gave no
indication that Obama, as some had speculated, was bringing a new diplomatic
plan for the Palestinian track.
White House press secretary Jay Carney,
meanwhile, told reporters that Obama would not be bringing a new peace plan with
him, and that the visit was not connected to any specific Middle East peace
National Security Council head Yaakov Amidror will travel to
the US next week to begin planning the trip. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu
appointed Amidror as the person in his office responsible for coordinating the
Netanyahu’s envoy Yitzhak Molcho will also be traveling to
Washington in the coming days to discuss ways to restart the diplomatic process.
Molcho was taken off Netanyahu’s coalition negotiating team to focus on Obama’s
trip and this issue.
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