US President Barack Obama will go to Ramallah on Thursday to show support for
the Palestinian Authority and its president, Mahmoud Abbas, but there is grave
concern in both Jerusalem and Washington about what will happen when Abbas, 78,
leaves the scene.
Diplomatic officials said on Monday that this issue was
expected to come up at some point during Obama’s talks later this week with
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.
According to one official, neither
Israel nor the US has a plan or idea on how to influence who Abbas’s successor
will be without leaving fingerprints. The concern is that if no new leader
emerges, Hamas could take over following Abbas’s departure.
said this was a frequent topic of discussion between Israeli officials and
Both US and Israeli officials have stressed that there
will be three major issues on the agenda for the president’s 50- hour trip
beginning Wednesday afternoon: Iran, Syria and the
Meanwhile, newly appointed US Secretary of State John Kerry
is scheduled to arrive in Israel on Tuesday evening, just hours before Obama’s
arrival on Wednesday at noon. He does not have any meetings
Kerry is widely expected to return to the region a number of
weeks after Obama’s visit to push forward the diplomatic process with the
In addition to Kerry, more than 100 US journalists are
expected to land on Tuesday to cover the visit. This number will be augmented by
a smaller group of journalists who will be flying to Israel on Air Force One, as
well as a number of journalists from other countries flying in to cover the
The government was set to open a press center Tuesday morning at
the Menachem Begin Heritage Center.
The final touches for the visit were
made on Monday with US and Israeli helicopters already hovering over the
capital, American flags going up on streets where the president’s motorcade will
pass, and police going through final practice drills.
The US Embassy in
Tel Aviv, in the meantime, is continuing to hype the visit on its Facebook page,
uploading a video of Israelis standing alongside a life-size cardboard cut-out of
the president saying “Welcome to Israel” and holding up signs in Hebrew, English
Almost 1,400 people took part in the embassy’s contest to win
some 20 tickets to the president’s speech Thursday at the Jerusalem
International Convention Center.
The US consulate in Jerusalem also got
in on the hype, uploading a video of four Palestinian youths singing an Arabic
rap song that included the words, “Mr. Obama, to us you are a symbol of
humanity/ We want you to remain great in our eyes/ Don’t forget our cause/
Peace, security, safety and freedom/ To conclude the message/ We want peace and
hope for a better life like other people.”