US President Barack Obama boarded Air Force One on Tuesday night and departed for Israel.
Click here for full JPost coverage of Obama's visit to Israel
and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu are expected to publicly paper
over any differences on Iran during the American leader’s visit that
begins Wednesday, with Netanyahu to express appreciation for the
president’s repeated comment that Israel has the right to defend itself
by itself against any threat.
In addition to thanking Obama for
his rhetorical support on this issue, Netanyahu – according to
government officials – will also express Israeli gratitude to the US for
its material support in this matter as well.
Obama is scheduled
to arrive Wednesday just after noon, making the Jewish state the first
overseas destination of his second term and giving him the opportunity
to speak directly to the Israeli people.
A number of Israeli
officials, as well as many of the country’s supporters abroad, have been
lobbying for years to put Israel on Obama’s travel itinerary, saying
his failure to visit during his first term sent the wrong message both
to Israel and other countries in the region.
Obama’s passing over
Israel during his first term, while visiting Egypt, Turkey and Saudi
Arabia, became a hot issue in the recent US elections.
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is expected to express his appreciation to Obama for visiting at the
outset of his second term, and say that this demonstrates the depth of
the relationship between the two countries.
Both senior Israeli
and US officials have said the 50-hour visit, much of which will be
spent in Netanyahu’s company, will go a long way toward setting the tone
of the two leaders’ relationship over the next four
During the visit Obama will travel the short distance from
Jerusalem to Ramallah to spend some five-and-a half hours on Thursday with
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
On Friday he will return
to the PA for a short stop at the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, before
leaving on a one-day visit to Jordan.
US Secretary of State John Kerry
arrived in Israel Tuesday evening, preceding the president by some 19 hours. He
did not have any scheduled meetings.
Kerry’s itinerary, however,
indicates that he will delve immediately into the nitty-gritty of the
Israeli-Palestinian diplomatic process. While Kerry will accompany Obama to
Jordan on Friday, unlike the president who will fly from Amman to Washington the
next day, Kerry will return to Jerusalem Saturday night for a dinner meeting
with Netanyahu that has been described as a “follow- up” meeting and is expected
to concentrate on the Palestinian issue.
Netanyahu, along with President
Shimon Peres and the newly sworn in cabinet, will greet Obama at Ben-Gurion
airport at 12:30 p.m. on Wednesday.
He will then helicopter to Jerusalem
for a reception at the President’s Residence.
This will be followed by a
marathon meeting with Netanyahu at the Prime Minister’s Residence that will be
divided into three parts: an initial twoand- a-half hour meeting, followed by a
20-minute press conference, and then a dinner. The Prime Minister’s Office would
not say which of the new cabinet ministers would attend that dinner.
will be the tenth meeting between Obama and Netanyahu since they were sworn into
office in 2009. They met twice before that as candidates. Obama has met
one-on-one with Netanyahu more than with any other world leader, but never for
as long as he will during the current visit.
Netanyahu will accompany
Obama on his tour of the Dead Sea Scrolls and an exhibition on Israeli
technological developments at the Israel Museum in the capital on Thursday
Obama will then helicopter to Ramallah, and return for a 5
speech to students at the Jerusalem International Convention
Netanyahu will see him again at the state dinner that night
hosted by Peres, where Obama will be given the Presidential Medal of
The next morning he will lay a wreath at the graves of
Theodor Herzl and Yitzhak Rabin on Mount Herzl, and go to Yad Vashem. He will
then have yet another meeting with Netanyahu, this one scheduled for some 90
minutes, before heading for the Church of the Nativity.
He is scheduled
to leave Israel at 3 p.m. Friday afternoon.
While much has been said
about Obama’s desire to use the trip to better connect to the Israeli public,
Netanyahu’s spokesman Mark Regev said at a press briefing that Israel would do
everything possible to express its appreciation to Obama and the US for their
“steadfast support and friendship.”
Regev said the three main issues on
the agenda were Iran, Syria and the diplomatic process with the
Regarding Iran, he reiterated Netanyahu’s oft-stated
position that Israel feels the current political and economic pressure will work
only if it is “coupled with military pressure” and an Iranian realization that
military action will be taken if necessary to keep it from obtaining nuclear
Regarding Syria, Regev said Israel was closely coordinated with
the US on this matter. He said there was a joint concern that as Syria
fragmented, the humanitarian crisis there could turn into a strategic crisis as
chemical weapons or advanced weapons systems fall either into the hands of
Hezbollah, which was supporting President Bashar Assad, or radical Sunni Islamic
forces like al-Qaida, who were among those fighting against him.
Palestinian issue, Regev indicated that Netanyahu’s message to Obama would be a
willingness to move forward toward a “historic compromise to end the conflict”
as long as it was done in a “step-by-step, measured and verifiable manner.” But,
he stressed, compromise needed to be a “two-way street.”
When asked about
a possible settlement freeze, Regev said this did not help in the past, but
Israel was ready for “mutual, reciprocal confidence building measures to bolster
the process and move forward."Find live Twitter updates from our reporters covering the Obama visit, here:
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