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(photo credit: AP)
Israel will not "make a big deal" out of US President Barack Obama's decision to visit Egypt in early June, but bypass a stopover in Jerusalem, diplomatic officials in Jerusalem said on Monday.
The White House announced over the weekend that Obama would be traveling to Buchenwald and Dresden on June 5 before going to France for D-Day commemorations. During this trip, he will also go to Egypt, chosen as the site for the president's long-promised address from a Muslim country to try and repair the US's ties with the Islamic world.
"In the past, we probably would have made a big deal out of this, but Obama is meeting [Prime Minister Binyamin] Netanyahu two weeks before, so what would be the point [of another meeting]?" one diplomatic official said.
Netanyahu is scheduled to meet Obama on May 18 at the White House.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak are expected to follow Netanyahu to Washington and meet with Obama by the end of May.
Another official said it had been clear for a long while that Obama wanted to make an important speech in a Muslim capital, and Israel understood full well the importance of Egypt - as was evident from Netanyahu's visiting there on Monday.
A third official said Obama had made clear during his campaign that he would deliver a major address from the heart of the Islamic world, and that his trip to Egypt would focus on America's ties with the world's Muslims, not the Israeli-Palestinian track.
Still, the official acknowledged that some would see Obama's decision not to call on Israel, even when he was geographically so close, as a slight that reflected a perceived deterioration in US-Israel ties, just as Obama's decision to host Jordan's King Abdullah II before seeing Netanyahu was seen by some in the same light.
"People who want to see problems are going to see signs in everything," the official said.