(JNS.org) White House officials said Tuesday that President Barack Obama, whose relationship with Israel routinely garners attention due to his reported tension with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, plans to visit the Jewish state this spring.
A specific date for Obama’s trip, which will also include Jordan, was not announced. Obama visited Israel when he ran for president in 2008, but this will be his first trip while in office. He decided to take this trip following a Jan. 28 phone conversation with Netanyahu, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters.
“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 and to discuss the way forward on a broad range of issues of mutual concern, including Iran and Syria,” National Security Council Spokesman Tommy Vietor said.
National Jewish Democratic Council (NJDC) Chair Marc R. Stanley said in a statement, “We are proud of the President’s unprecedentedly pro-Israel record and this upcoming trip will provide President Obama with yet another opportunity to affirm the unbreakable bond between the U.S. and Israel.”
But Richard Baehr—chief political correspondent for American Thinker—wasn’t as optimistic about what will come of Obama’s visit. He told JNS.org, “Obama and Netanyahu have met several times before, never with great warmth or accomplishment.” Baehr noted the progress achieved by Iran on its nuclear program during Obama’s first term, when the president did not visit Israel.
“It took four years for the president to get to Israel and during that time Iran has moved that much closer to becoming the world’s 10th nation with nuclear weapons,” Baehr wrote in an email. “With reports of another [U.S.] diplomatic initiative towards Iran in the works, [the U.S. and Israel] need to coordinate their responses once the diplomatic track fails, as it inevitably will. Diplomacy for Iran has always meant wasting time while its centrifuges spin.”
In addition to praising Obama’s plans, NJDC’s Stanley noted new Secretary of State John Kerry’s plans to visit Israel in March. He commended both Kerry and Obama “for placing Israel and its security needs at the top of the Administration’s foreign policy agenda for President Obama’s second term.”
While the visits by Kerry and Obama will cast some spotlight on the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, which has been stalled, the focus should remain Iran, Baehr told JNS.org.
“The president should know by now that Israel is focused on the Iranian nuclear program, not on meaningless symbolic gestures to give the appearance that there is a peace process underway with the Palestinians,” he wrote. “The 20 years since Oslo have revealed that the Palestinians concede nothing on any issue and still expect in the end that Israel will disappear.”