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article imageOp-Ed: Obama's Israel visit recap — What was accomplished?

By Karl Gotthardt     Mar 22, 2013 in Politics
Tel Aviv - President Obama is on the last day of his visit to Israel and the West Bank, where he held talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. What if anything was accomplished?
President Obama is wrapping up a three day visit to Israel and the West Bank. Before a final discussion with Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, the president visited the gravesites of Binyamin Ze'ev Herzl, the father of modern Zionism and that of former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin, placing a wreath on both tombs. He then visited the Yad Vashem Holocaust institute.
After visiting the symbolic sites, the president was scheduled to have another meeting with Benjamin Netanyahu before taking a helicopter to the West Bank to visit the Church of the Nativity and a meeting with Mahmoud Abbas. President Obama will then bid his official farewell to Israel at Ben Gurion Airport in an official ceremony, before flying to Jordan to meet with King Abdullah II.
Prior to the first official visit, to say that the relationship between Israel's prime minister and President Obama is strained would be an understatement. After all Netanyahu publicly endorsed Mitt Romney during last year's election. Obama's visit today to the gravesite of Binyamin Ze'ev Herzl was at the request of the Israeli government. The site is avoided by other foreign leaders.
While the president is apparently mistrusted by Jews and Palestinian alike, he reassured Israelis during the welcoming ceremony on Wednesday that there was and unbreakable bond between the two nations and vowed an eternal alliance.
“I see this visit as an opportunity to reaffirm the unbreakable bond between our two nations,” Mr. Obama said in brief remarks on the tarmac after Mr. Peres and Mr. Netanyahu praised Washington’s support for Israel.
With the upheaval in the Middle East Israel is more concerned about the wider Middle East, particularly the situation in Syria and Egypt and the nuclear developments in Iran.
During a press conference with Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, President Obama acknowledged that Netanyahu's first task was to keep Israel safe and said that Americas commitment to the security of the Jewish state was a solemn obligation and its security non-negotiable.
As President I have therefore made it clear America’s commitment to the security of the State of Israel as a solemn obligation, and the security of Israel is non-negotiable.
In short, and I don’t think this is just my opinion, Bibi you would share this, America’s support for Israel’s security is unprecedented and the alliance between our nations has never been stronger. That’s the sturdy foundation we built on today as we addressed a range of shared challenges.
After his meeting with Netanyahu, the president flew to Ramallah to meet with PA President Mahmoud Abbas. Obama traveled to the West Bank to meet with Palestinian officials. Obama was greeted with a short official ceremony ahead of his meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
The meeting, which was held a few hours after rockets were fired into the southern Israeli city of Sderot, was accompanied by protests. Hundreds of Palestinian voiced their anger over the meeting. The Palestinian Authority used the meeting to condemn the rocket attacks.
"We condemn violence against civilians, no matter where it originates," Abbas was quoted as saying. "We are in favor of establishing mutual and comprehensive calm in the Gaza Strip, and therefore I supported the agreement Hamas and Israel reached through Egyptian mediation."
Obama in a joint press conference with Abbas
said that the Palestinians deserve to move freely and are entitled to a state. He said Ramallah was a very different city than it was five years ago, with increased construction and he paid tribute to Abbas for his courage and their commitment to peace.
Obama acknowledged the misery and hardship the people in Gaza experienced, but put the blame right at the feet of Hamas, which he said was highlighted by the rocket fire on Sderod.
He said that the US remains committed to the reality of a two state solution, emphasized by his statement that Palestinians deserve a state of their own.
Obama's highlight of the visit was a speech he delivered to youths at Haifa University, in which he said that peace with the Palestinians is possible. He urged Israeli youth to take the peace process in hand, by putting pressure on its leaders, because peace does not start with the plans of leaders, but in the hearts of the people, he said.
That is where peace begins — not just in the plans of leaders, but in the hearts of people; not just in a carefully designed process, but in the daily connections that take place among those who live together in this land, and in this sacred city of Jerusalem. Speaking as a politician, I can promise you this: political leaders will not take risks if the people do not demand that they do. You must create the change that you want to see. Ordinary people can accomplish extraordinary things.
Your hopes must light the way forward. Look to a future in which Jews, Muslims and Christians can all live in peace and greater prosperity in this Holy Land. Believe in that. Most of all look to the future that you want for your own children – a future in which a Jewish, democratic state is protected and accepted, for this time and for all time.
"There will be many voices that say this is not possible. But remember this: Israel is the most powerful country in this region.
The speech had a powerful message, which included a plea to stop the construction of settlements in the occupied territory, called for a two state solution and a return to the negotiation table without preconditions. Obama made clear during his visit that a two state solution cannot be brought about by the UN, but only at the negotiation table between the two people.
While it will take Israeli and Palestinian Authority leader to make the move, the president made it clear where he stands. Time will tell if his visit made any impact on the region.
While there may not be much movement on reaching a lasting peace agreement between Israelis and Palestinians, there were face to face discussions on the situation in Egypt,Syria and the nuclear development in Iran. The president will be criticized for waiting until his second term to visit Israel and his Cairo speech in 2009. Regardless his speech in Jerusalem should have provided food for thought to youth on the West Bank and Israel.
President Obama travels to Jordan to meet with King Abdullah II to discuss the upheaval of the region, with emphasis on Syria. Jordan has been flooded with Syrian refugees and there will be the necessary discussion of arming and training Syrian rebels.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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