Obama in Israel to “thaw frosty relations” with Netanyahu
Marking his first presidential visit to Israel, Barack Obama arrived at the Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion airport in Israel in the early hours of Wednesday morning. In a lavish welcoming ceremony, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Shimon Peres greeted the president fuelling speculation that relations between Obama and Netanyahu are beginning to thaw.
Stating that the sole purpose of his three-day to visit to Israel is to reaffirm the unbreakable bond between the two nations, to restate America’s unwavering commitment to Israel’s security and to speak directly to the people of Israel, Obama greeted Netanyahu with “Peace must come to the Holy Land”.
Obama’s visit is widely regarded by White House officials as an opportunity to connect with the Israeli people who mostly condemn the US president. Indeed, according to a recently published poll in an Israeli newspaper Ma’ariv, only 10% Israelis favour Obama and 17% define their attitude towards him as “hateful”.
Scheduled talks between the two leaders Obama and Netanyahu are expected to focus on Iran, Syria and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The Iranian nuclear programme is most likely to be top of the agenda, followed by the deteriorating security situation in Syria and Israel’s relationships with Turkey and Egypt.
During the presidential visit Obama is expected to visit the Israeli military defensive installations and inspect an Iron Dome mobile missile defence unit that is funded by the US. The US president is also expected to speak to Israeli students and deliver a speech at the International Convention Centre in Jerusalem, and later plans to travel by helicopter to Jordan to meet King Abdullah and to Ramallah to meet with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad.
His itinerary also includes visits to the Israel Museum to view the Dead Sea Scrolls, Israel’s haunting Holocaust memorial Yad Vashem, and the graves of Theodor Herzl, the father of Zionism, and the assassinated Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.