Kerry postpones Israel visit in 1st Middle East trip

US Secretary of State to make first Israel visit with Obama; settler leaders urge American president to visit West Bank.

John Kerry 370 (photo credit: REUTERS/Jason Reed)
John Kerry 370
(photo credit: REUTERS/Jason Reed)
Israel will not be a stop on US Secretary of State John Kerry’s first international trip, in which he will travel to Europe and the Middle East from February 24 to March 6.
Kerry had been expected to arrive in Israel at the end of this month, as part of that trip, but will instead arrive with US President Barack Obama during his visit in March.
It is assumed that the absence of a new Israeli government caused Kerry to postpone the trip.
No exact date has been set for the US president’s visit. But with each passing day Obama fever in Israel is rising.
On Tuesday, the Prime Minister’s Office released an official logo that will be on all documents and signs relating to the trip.
The blue, red and white logo looks like a flag that is half American and half Israeli, with red strips on one side and blue strips and a Jewish star on the other. Underneath it are the words “Unbreakable Alliance.”
It was among three logos designed by graphic artists chosen by the Government Advertising Agency.
The public was asked to pick from among the three, which were placed on the prime minister’s Facebook page. The winning logo received 66.8 percent of the votes.
From personal letters to Facebook, settlers have reached out to Obama in an effort to sway him to visit Jewish communities in the West Bank during his visit to Israel.
Both Ma’aleh Adumim Mayor Benny Kashriel and Efrat Council head Oded Revivi wrote letters to Obama, urging him to see for himself what life is like in their communities, both of which are located near Jerusalem.
“I would like to invite you to visit the city of Ma’aleh Adumim, and to get a first-hand expression of the issue of the neighborhood in area E1,” Kashriel wrote to Obama earlier this month.
In his letter, which was released to the media on Tuesday, he explained that he understood that the issue of construction in the un-built area of his settlement, known as E1 to the international community and the Mevaseret Adumim neighborhood in Hebrew, had made it all the way to Obama’s desk.
He told Obama he was concerned that Palestinians had provided him with inaccurate information about the proposed construction’s impact, which had led to his decision to call for the project to be frozen.
A visit to Ma’aleh Adumim, Kashriel wrote, would “offer the opportunity to experience the nature of our city’s people, and our city’s great contribution to regional prosperity, as well as to the livelihood and success of both Palestinian and Israeli families.”
On Monday, Revivi released a letter that he, too, had sent to Obama, in which he urged him to visit his West Bank settlement.
In his letter he noted that 30 percent of Efrat residents were American born, including the community’s Chief Rabbi Shlomo Riskin.
Efrat had good relations with the neighboring Palestinian villages and served as a model for cooperation between Jews and Arabs, he said.
“A visit to our town would sharpen one’s understanding of the reality in which we live,” Revivi wrote.
“You would be able to see from an observation point the close proximity of our neighboring Arab villages to Jerusalem, and realize that the declaration of two states for two nations is not realistic and would only worsen and deteriorate the delicate situation that now exits but for which a workable solution must be found,” Revivi wrote.
Separately, the Samaria Citizens Committee has created a Facebook page urging Obama to visit its region of the West Bank. To date it has received 1,101 “likes.”
The most popular page on the issue, however, has been the Peace Now page, with 17,795 “likes” with a request that Obama give a speech for peace in Rabin Square in Tel Aviv.
Meanwhile, Kerry’s 11 days of travel will take him to Turkey, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates as well as a handful of European destinations.
His stop in Egypt will seek to “encourage greater political consensus and move forward on economic reforms,” according to a statement put out by the State Department. While in the Gulf, Kerry will participate in a ministerial meeting of the Gulf Cooperation Council, and in Qatar he will discuss regional concerns including Syria and the peace process.