(WASHINGTON) — President Obama plans to do more listening than talking when he makes his first trip to Israel this week since first becoming commander in chief more than four years ago.
Much has changed in the Middle East during that time but two things haven’t: there is still no peace agreement between the Israelis and Palestinians, and Israel is determined to stop Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, even if it takes a preemptive military strike to do so.
Obama has been adamant that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu not take that action until he’s been consulted, preferring to use diplomacy and sanctions to force Tehran’s hand.
Netanyahu is more convinced than ever that Iran is on the verge of developing an atomic arsenal and wants assurances from the president that the U.S. will stand behind Israel if Israeli war jets strike Iranian nuclear facilities.
The leaders have had an uneasy alliance but Obama’s journey, which will also include a brief side trip to Ramallah in the West Bank, could help to reaffirm America’s 65-year solidarity with Israel.
As for the peace talks to perhaps one day establish a Palestinian state, the ruling body in the West Bank seems to believe Secretary of State John Kerry is more committed to reviving talks with the Israelis than Obama so his visit there will probably help matters.
Still, there’s no chance of anything happening soon without Netanyahu’s support. Obama will have three days in Jerusalem to win him over.
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