Obama, PM expected to discuss ‘day after’ Abbas

US leader to travel to Ramallah Thursday in sign of support for PA and its president; according to diplomat, concern in both Washington and Jerusalem is that Hamas could take over after Abbas leaves scene.

Netanyahu, Obama, Abbas 300 (photo credit: REUTERS/Jason Reed )
Netanyahu, Obama, Abbas 300
(photo credit: REUTERS/Jason Reed )
US President Barack Obama will go to Ramallah on Thursday to show support for the Palestinian Authority and its president, Mahmoud Abbas, but there is grave concern in both Jerusalem and Washington about what will happen when Abbas, 78, leaves the scene.
Diplomatic officials said on Monday that this issue was expected to come up at some point during Obama’s talks later this week with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.
According to one official, neither Israel nor the US has a plan or idea on how to influence who Abbas’s successor will be without leaving fingerprints. The concern is that if no new leader emerges, Hamas could take over following Abbas’s departure.
The official said this was a frequent topic of discussion between Israeli officials and foreign statesmen.
Both US and Israeli officials have stressed that there will be three major issues on the agenda for the president’s 50- hour trip beginning Wednesday afternoon: Iran, Syria and the Palestinians.
Meanwhile, newly appointed US Secretary of State John Kerry is scheduled to arrive in Israel on Tuesday evening, just hours before Obama’s arrival on Wednesday at noon. He does not have any meetings planned.
Kerry is widely expected to return to the region a number of weeks after Obama’s visit to push forward the diplomatic process with the Palestinians.
In addition to Kerry, more than 100 US journalists are expected to land on Tuesday to cover the visit. This number will be augmented by a smaller group of journalists who will be flying to Israel on Air Force One, as well as a number of journalists from other countries flying in to cover the visit.
The government was set to open a press center Tuesday morning at the Menachem Begin Heritage Center.
The final touches for the visit were made on Monday with US and Israeli helicopters already hovering over the capital, American flags going up on streets where the president’s motorcade will pass, and police going through final practice drills.
The US Embassy in Tel Aviv, in the meantime, is continuing to hype the visit on its Facebook page, uploading a video of Israelis standing alongside a life-size cardboard cut-out of the president saying “Welcome to Israel” and holding up signs in Hebrew, English and Arabic.
Almost 1,400 people took part in the embassy’s contest to win some 20 tickets to the president’s speech Thursday at the Jerusalem International Convention Center.
The US consulate in Jerusalem also got in on the hype, uploading a video of four Palestinian youths singing an Arabic rap song that included the words, “Mr. Obama, to us you are a symbol of humanity/ We want you to remain great in our eyes/ Don’t forget our cause/ Peace, security, safety and freedom/ To conclude the message/ We want peace and hope for a better life like other people.”