US President Barack Obama's visit to Israel next week will send a message both to Israel and its neighbors that the US supports and has a partnership with the Jewish state, Israeli envoy to the US Micheal Oren said in an interview with Channel 2 on Saturday.
Oren rejected criticism from New York Times' columnist Thomas Friedman that Obama was arriving as a "tourist" and not as a player in the peace process, stating that the US president delivering a message of support for Israel was particularly important at a time when "the Middle East is burning."
In response to polls finding that a large percentage of Israelis believe Obama is anti-Israel, Oren stated that he does not believe the Israeli public has had a chance to meet the US president up close yet.
"One of the goals of this trip is that they can get to know him," Oren said.
Oren stated that, during his trip, Obama would discuss the peace process, the deteriorating situation with Syria and the Iranian threat with Israeli leaders.
The ambassador also addressed Israeli efforts to gain the release of imprisoned agent Jonathan Pollard, saying that, "we take responsibility for Pollard's actions and apologized, the time has come for him to be freed."