Obama won't take peace initiative to Israel


In this handout photo from the Israeli Government Press Office (GPO), U.S. President Barack Obama (R) talks with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as they walk along the Colonnade of the White House on March 5, 2012 in Washington, DC. Obama is planning to visit Israel in the spring of 2013.



JERUSALEM — President Barack Obama won't be bringing a peace initiative with him on his first presidential visit to Israel scheduled for the spring, the White House said on Wednesday.

He will visit for three days in March, when he'll also spend a few hours in the Palestinian Authority.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said the trip was not connected with restarting the Middle East peace process between Israel and the Palestinians, Haaretz reported

US Ambassador Dan Shapiro told Israel's Channel 2 News, "These are two leaders starting out on new terms. To some degree they have to chart out how to work together."

"The president looks forward to making this trip. It is timed with the beginning of a second administration and new government in Israel, not focused on specific Mid-East peace process proposals," Shapiro said.

There will be no tripartite meeting between Obama, Netanyahu and PA President Mahmoud Abbas.

Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren said he expected the president's visit to send "a powerful message to the Middle East."

"Listen, we're delighted he's coming," Oren told MSNBC. "President Obama was always welcomed in Israel. He'll be received enthusiastically by the government of Israel, by the prime minister of Israel, by the people of Israel."

"The White House has made very clear that the purpose of the trip is to strengthen an already historic bond between Israel and the United States," he added.

Israel's Channel 2 News said an unnamed senior American official rejected the widespread belief in Israel that Obama's trip is timed to influence coalition negotiations after a parliamentary election last month.

"President Obama very much respects the Israeli political process," said Shapiro, speaking to Israel Radio. "He won't intervene in elections or coalition talks, and he will arrive after a new government is formed."

The speaker of Israel's parliament, the Knesset, urged Netanyahu to ask Obama to address lawmakers. "The nation of Israel definitely thirsts to hear the United States President speak to them directly," Arutz Sheva reported Binyamin (Fouad) Ben-Eliezer as saying. "There is no more appropriate venue than the Knesset for the US President to speak."

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