Obama's Israel trip to include visiting Iron Dome: report
U.S. President Barack Obama's trip to Israel in March, his first since he entered the White House in 2009, will include a meeting with soldiers operating the Iron Dome anti-rocket defense system, Israeli media reported Tuesday.
Obama is scheduled to land in Ben-Gurion International Airport on board Air Force One at noon on March 20, where he will be received by an honor guard and make a televised speech alongside speeches by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Shimon Peres, according to preliminary details of the itinerary obtained by the Yediot Aharonot newspaper.
The U.S. president's three-day visit will commence with laying a wreath at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum. He will then lay wreaths on the graves of Thedor Herzl, the founder of modern Zionism and visionary of the Jewish state, and Yitzhak Rabin, the prime minister who was gunned down by a Jewish assassin in 1995 at the height of a controversial peace process with the Palestinians, Yediot Aharonot said.
Later in the day, Obama and Netanyahu will convene with small delegations of advisers for closed-door discussions that are slated to feature Iran, Syria and kick-starting the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians. Netanyahu will reportedly also discuss the issue of Jonathan Pollard, a former U.S. Navy intelligence analyst jailed since 1986 for spying for Israel. A joint news conference will follow the meeting.
Yediot Aharonot reported Monday that the visit is primarily intended to stop any intention by Netanyahu to launch an independent attack on Iran in the spring, with Obama expected to reiterate his administration's support for continued international diplomacy and sanctions on Tehran. As well, contrary to claims by the White House that Obama will not bring a peace initiative with him to Israel, local media said Netanyahu can expect to be pressed on the issue, with Israel reportedly mulling possible gestures to the Palestinians ahead of the visit.
On the second day of the visit, Obama is scheduled to hold a five-hour meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah. Upon his return to Jerusalem, he will be taken by Netanyahu to view a miniaturized model of Jerusalem in the Second Temple period, the ancient Dead Sea scrolls housed at the capital' s Shrine of the Book, and an exhibition at the Israel Museum " which will showcase Israel's advanced developments in high-tech, bio-tech, nano-technology and agriculture," according to Yediot Aharonot.
In the afternoon, Obama will address the Israeli public. The speech will be held either at the Israel Museum or the nearby Jerusalem Convention Center.
On March 22, the third day, Netanyahu and Obama will visit a battery of the Iron Dome rocket interceptor and meet its operators at an undisclosed site. The United States has to date invested hundreds of millions of dollars in the system's development and procurement to help Israel defend against intermittent rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip.
Obama will leave Israel at noon for a meeting with Jordanian King Abdullah II in Amman. His regional tour is scheduled to include additional stops in Ankara, Riyadh and Cairo.