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Barack Obama, the freshman Democratic senator from Illinois already being touted as a possible presidential candidate in 2008, arrived in Israel Monday night for his first visit to the region.
Obama is scheduled to meet Tuesday with Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom, and attempts are being made to set up a meeting with Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. During his two-day visit he is scheduled to tour the security fence as well as meet with top Palestinian officials.
Obama burst onto the national scene in the US after delivering what was widely described as an "electrifying" keynote address at the Democratic National Convention in 2004.
Although Obama has only been in the senate for a year, his record on Israel - according to US Jewish officials - has been strong. According to these officials, Obama supported Israel when foreign aid bills came for a vote, and also signed on to a recent Senate letter against Hamas participation in the elections.
In addition, he made "supportive" comments toward Israel during his 2004 Senate campaign.
During his first year in the Senate, Obama has earned a reputation as someone trying to chart a very "evenhanded" policy regarding Israel and the Palestinians.
He told The Chicago Tribune prior to coming here that he would talk to leaders from both sides of the Middle East conflict. "I'm interested in seeing what kind of ideas both sides have in terms of moving the peace process forward," he said.
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