WASHINGTON - US President Barack Obama on Monday met Arab American leaders who urged him to deliver a message of hope to the Palestinian people on his Middle East trip this month, even though he has made clear he will not use the visit to launch a new Israeli-Palestinian peace initiative.
Obama hosted about 10 leaders at the White House just four days after holding talks with representatives of major Jewish organizations in preparation for his travels to Israel, the occupied West Bank and neighboring Jordan.The White House has yet to officially announce the dates for the trip, but Israeli news media have reported that Obama will start in Israel on March 20.
Obama met the group on Monday to seek input for his meetings in the region. He is expected to hold separate talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Jordan's King Abdullah.
"He underscored that the trip is an opportunity for him to demonstrate the United States' commitment to the Palestinian people - in the West Bank and Gaza - and to partnering with the Palestinian Authority as it continues building institutions that will be necessary to bring about a truly independent Palestinian state," a White House official said.