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March 21st, 2013

Obama Visits Israel and West Bank

Published March 21, 2013

President Barack Obama is in Israel this week, marking his first presidential trip to the country since taking office five years ago.

U.S. President Barack Obama speaks during a press conference with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on March 20, 2013 in Jerusalem, Israel

The president did not stop in Israel during his last trip to the Middle East at the beginning of his first term, a move that caused friction between Mr. Obama and America’s strongest ally in the region.

The president also will meet with Palestinian leaders and youth in the West Bank, visit the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem and travel to Amman, Jordan to meet with King Abdullah II.

Syria, Iran and the stalled peace process

On Wednesday, the president met with Israeli President Shimon Peres and the newly reelected Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The leaders reaffirmed their strong mutual support. They also discussed Iran’s suspected nuclear program and at what point the countries would respond to the threat militarily. In addition, they talked about the continued fighting in neighboring Syria.

On Thursday, President Obama went to Ramallah in the West Bank, where he met with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. At a joint press conference, they addressed the issue of Israel continuing to build settlements in the West Bank, and the need to move forward on the peace process.

This afternoon, the president plans to deliver a speech in front of an Israeli audience at the Jerusalem Convention Center. You can watch the speech live here:

 

On Friday, Mr. Obama will visit the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum and the Church of the Nativity before traveling to Amman, Jordan to dine with King Abdullah II.

On Saturday, the president will conclude his trip with a visit to Petra, an ancient city carved out of the side of a mountain.

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These are the president’s scheduled stops on his 2013 Middle East tour. Picture via www.whitehouse.gov

 

U.S.-Israeli tensions and the settlement issue

The trip is seen as an opportunity for Mr. Obama to repair frayed ties with Israel.

“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,” said White House spokesman Jay Carney.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu backed Republican candidate Mitt Romney in the 2012 presidential election, but gave President Obama a warm greeting on Wednesday.

Mr. Obama publicly supports a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, meaning that Palestinian territories would become their own state, separate from Israel.

However, Netanyahu and his right-wing Likud party do not support a plan that would give Palestinians land that Israel occupied during the 1967 war against its Arab neighbors. Despite international protest, Israeli settlers have continued to build and expand settlements on Palestinian land in the West Bank.

Palestinian leaders say Israel must stop building settlements in Palestinian territory before they will resume peace negotiations.

While the president is not expected to offer specific peace solutions during his time in the Middle East, his advisers told the New York Times that his visit will show that he is not walking away from the region’s issues.

Click here to visit the White House’s official page for the 2013 Middle East tour

– Compiled by Allison McCartney for NewsHour Extra

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