Obama Plans Visit to Israel This Spring

ISRAELPresident Obama plans to travel to Israel this spring for the first time since taking office, as he and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu try to move past the friction of last 4 years now that both have won re-election. By making Israel a stop on first overseas trip of his second term, Mr. Obama hopes to demonstrate support for the Jewish state despite doubts among some of its backers. But the trip also seems designed to signal new start in a fraught relationship rather than an ambitious effort to revive a stalled peace process. (source: NYTimes – 06/02/2013)

“The start of the president’s second term and the formation of a new Israeli government offer the opportunity to reaffirm the deep and enduring bonds between the United States and Israel,” Jay Carney, the White House spokesman, said Tuesday, “and to discuss the way forward on a broad range of issues of mutual concern, including, of course, Iran and Syria.” Mr. Carney said Mr. Obama would also travel to Jordan and West Bank. Israeli news media reported that Mr. Obama would arrive on March 20, but the White House would not discuss any dates for the trip. Mr. Netanyahu’s office said a visit by the president would be “an important opportunity to underscore the friendship and strong partnership between Israel and the United States.” The relationship between the two leaders has been edgy for years over issues like Israel’s settlements in the West Bank and ways to stop Iran’s nuclear program. While Obama won a clear victory in November, Mr. Netanyahu emerged from elections last month in a weakened state. His party won enough seats for him to retain office, but he will be forced to recruit centrist lawmakers for a coalition that might temper his policies. He has until March 16 to present his new government. Obama is not expected to unveil concrete proposals for bringing Israelis and Palestinians together during his visit or initiate a specific new peace process. But advisers hope just by showing up and talking about these issues, Mr. Obama will show he is not walking away from them. Dennis Ross, a former Middle East adviser to Mr. Obama, attributed the trip to “a desire to connect with Israeli public at a time when he can go and not have high expectations about having to produce something.” The president “can create a new beginning with same prime minister but with new Israeli government,” Mr. Ross said. Some peace advocates welcomed the trip but said it should go beyond atmospherics.

“The key is, they’ve got to use this as a real substantive jumping off point for a serious diplomatic initiative”, said Jeremy Ben-Ami, the president of J Street, a Washington advocacy group. “This has to be more than a photo op to show that he cares.” A former Israeli defense official said the trip’s announcement might have been timed to send a message to Israelis and even influence composition of the next government amid talk of restarting the peace effort. Former official said a more centrist government would allow the sides more room to maneuver. Also on the agenda this trip will be Iran and the continuing strife in Syria that threatens to descend into a wider regional conflict. Israel last week struck a convoy of antiaircraft weapons inside Syria that it feared was being moved to Hezbollah forces. “The United States can put an end to the Iranian threat,” President Shimon Peres of Israel said in an address to Parliament on Tuesday, “and I believe that the president of the United States is determined to do it”. While Mr. Obama visited Israel in 2008 as a candidate, he did not travel there during his first term, a fact that became fodder on the campaign trail last year. A television commercial from a group called Emergency Committee for Israel said Mr. Obama had “traveled all over Middle East but he hasn’t found time to visit our ally and friend, Israel.” Romney, the Republican presidential nominee, ran his own advertisement criticizing president for not going to Israel. Only 4 sitting presidents have visited Israel: Nixon and Carter each went once, George W. Bush twice, Bill Clinton four times. Bush, considered one of the strongest friends Israel has had in the Oval Office, did not visit until 2008, near the end of his presidency. 


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12 Responses to Obama Plans Visit to Israel This Spring

  1. Professor Uziel Nogueira says: Is going to be an interesting trip by Pres Obama. For the first time in recent history, a US Pres holds a relatively strengthened political position vis a vis Israel’s PM. Public appearance by both leaders will give a clue on how relations stand at this point. Netanyahu –the smartest Israeli politician ever — has a tough political act to perform during Obama’s visit. That is, shift his face of disdain/superiority for another of respect when appearing publicly with Pres Obama.


  2. jgarbuz: Netanyahu and Obama are both democratically elected leaders and neither is superior to the other. Neither can tell the other what to do. If Obama fully respects Jewish rights in their ancestral homeland, I’m sure Netanyahu will respect American rights to their homeland as well. It’s nobody’s business to tell the other where their people can live or build their homes, or where their national capital is..


  3. Professor Uziel Nogueira says: I think PM Netanyhau has more political power than Pres Obama. He is the only foreign leader that goes to Washington and talks directly to the US Congress over the objections of the White House. Pres Obama — or any other US Pres — would never dare to do the same thing in Israel.


  4. jgarbuz: Let Obama address the Knesset directly if he wants to. Let him offer a bonafide treaty of alliance with Israel, ratified by the US Congress. If Israel does what Obama wants, even more rockets will be falling on Sderot and not on Springfield. Israel pays the price when it gives in to American or other pressure. The US doesn’t.


  5. April: Netanyahu is not the smartest Israeli politician, certainly not the smartest ever. Other PMs, intelligence folk, and journalists think he’s lost a chance for peace and is playing to forces inside Israel that will lead to its destruction. No two state solution, no Israel. They’ll lose our support. Europe’s already left them.


  6. All over this city of 12 million people, high-rises are under construction, local engineers and Chinese contractors are rushing to finish a multilevel highway, and the streets are lined with billboards promoting the latest tablets and washing machines made by South Korean companies like Samsung and LG. Supermarkets are fully stocked, and it seems as if new restaurants and fast food joints are opening up every day, and never lacking for customers. In short, you would not know that oil exports from Iran have dropped by a million barrels a day, and that the free fall in the currency has caused huge inflation — a result of American- and European-led sanctions as well as economic mismanagement by the Iranian government. The West escalated the economic war another notch on Wednesday, imposing a new set of restrictions intended to force Iran into what amounts to a form of barter trade for oil, because payments for oil deliveries can no longer be sent to accounts inside Iran. A senior Obama administration official called the latest step “a significant turning of the screw,” repeating the administration’s four-year argument that the mullahs here face a “stark choice” between holding on to their nuclear program or reviving their oil revenue, the country’s economic lifeblood. But there is little confidence among American officials in Washington — and little evidence on the streets of Tehran — that even newly stringent sanctions have much chance of forcing Iran’s supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, into striking the deal that most Americans and Europeans, and even some Israelis, say could defuse the crisis. The sanctions, while the source of constant complaint and morbid jokes, have not set off price riots or serious opposition to the Iranian government. In fact, the past year has not been all that bad, as Saeed Ranchian, 39, a shopkeeper peddling perfumes in Tehran’s Grand Bazaar, said the other day while he was sipping tea and as droves of shoppers strolled by on newly paved sidewalks. Surrounded by colognes with elaborate foreign names like Le Chevalier Primero, Mr. Ranchian admitted that with prices doubling and Iran’s currency crashing, “you would expect people to buy less.” “But in Iran, when prices go up, people start buying more, fearing even higher prices,” he said, adding with a laugh that the country’s economy “has rules that no one understands” (…..)


  7. Professor Uziel Nogueira says:

    Economic warfare + naval exercise Persian Gulf = preparation for Obama trip to Israel Spring 2013. Business as usual.


  8. Two days of talks between six world powers and Iran over its nuclear program ended on Wednesday with specific agreement for further meetings in March and April over a proposal that would sharply constrain Iran’s stockpile of the most dangerous enriched uranium, in return for a modest lifting of some sanctions. But the six powers dropped their demand that Iran shut down its enrichment plant at Fordo, built deep underneath a mountain, instead insisting that Iran suspend enrichment work there and agree to take a series of steps that would make it hard to resume producing nuclear fuel quickly. The six also agreed, in another apparent softening, that Iran could keep a small amount of 20 percent enriched uranium — which can be converted to bomb grade with modest additional processing — for use in a reactor to produce medical isotopes. It was unclear whether any of these new positions would pave the way for any kind of agreement. Iran’s negotiators must now take the new proposal back to Iran’s supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, at a time of intense maneuvering and infighting in Iran. The two sides agreed that technical experts would meet to discuss the proposal on March 18 and 19 in Istanbul, while the negotiations at this higher political level would resume, again in Almaty, on April 5 and 6. The chief Iranian negotiator, Saeed Jalili, called this week’s meeting positive, asserting at a news conference that the six powers, representing the permanent members of the United Nations Security Council plus Germany, had offered a revised proposal that was “more realistic” and “closer to the Iranian position.” Mr. Jalili, whose comments were notably short of the aggressive wording he has used in the past, called the meeting “a turning point.” But senior Western diplomats were less enthusiastic, saying that Iran had not in fact responded to the proposal of the six and that real bargaining had not yet begun. A senior American official described the meeting as “useful” — refusing to call it positive — and emphasized that it was “concrete results” that counted, not atmospherics. A senior European diplomat was even more skeptical, saying that the technical meeting was essentially to explain the proposal to the Iranians once again, and that Iran might very well come back in April with an unacceptable counterproposal that swallows the “carrots” of the six and demands more (…..)


  9. Tara: Israel is not a signatory to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. However, Iran *is* a signatory to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. That makes all the difference in the world. If Iran creates nuclear weapons – or even if it is working on creating one, which there is ample evidence it is, it is violating that treaty. Israel has not violated the treaty, though it does have nuclear weapons (though it neither confirms nor denies that, officially).


  10. LBM: Yeah – where was the outcry when Israel developed nuclear weapons? If the US, China, India, France, Russia…have nuclear weapons, how is it so unspeakable that Iran is asserting that claim?



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