President Barack Obama is not coming to Israel to advance new proposals or break the peace talks deadlock with the Palestinians, the White House said Wednesday night, Feb. 6. US ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro said earlier he was coming in the spring for consultation major issues: preventing a nuclear Iran and the collapse of the Assad regime in Syria – not to make demands. Working relations between Obama and Netanyahu were “excellent,” he said.
The US ambassador was answering a question by a Kol Israel national radio interviewer early Wednesday, Feb. 6. The US ambassador said the president does not expect to issue a joint statement after his talks with the Israeli prime minister, but sought to affirm the deep and strengthened ties between the US and Israel.
Shapiro: Obama’s visit would take place after the new Israeli government was in place.
debkafile: Obama’s forthcoming visit has abruptly strengthened the prime minister’s hand in the negotiations for a post-election government coalition and refocused its agenda from haggling on domestic issues to establishing a broad security-diplomatic front. Party leaders such as Yair Lapid (Yesh Atid) are already muting their demands for joining government.
debkafile reported Tuesday, Feb. 5:
The day Israel announced the posting of extra Iron Dome and Patriot anti-missile interceptors in its northern regions, Tuesday, Feb. 5, the White House in Washington disclosed that US President Barack Obama would be visiting Israel in the spring. The visit had been discussed when Obama phoned Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Jan. 28 to congratulate him on his success in Israel’s recent election.
The communique went on to say that the US president was coming to discuss issues of common interest such as furthering the peace process but added, the start of Obama's second term offers an opportunity to reaffirm Israel's close relationship with the US and to discuss major issues like Syria and Iran.”
debkafile translates this as referring to the chemical weapons in the hands of Syria and most likely Hizballah as well as Iran’s nuclear program. The date of his visit was not released.
debkafile’s sources have divided the White House bulletin into two parts: security and political.
The reference to Syria and Iran as the “major issues” to be discussed in the framework of the “close relationship” points to Washington and Jerusalem being on the same wavelength on the military actions taken by Israel in Syria last week and those still to come.
It is also a signal from the White House to Tehran, Damascus and Hizballah that in so far as those three allies are planning reprisals for those actions, they will find the United States standing behind Israel.
The IDF command’s announcement expanding the areas of northern Israeli under the anti-missile interceptor shield was released shortly before the White House communiqué and during Israel’s chief of staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz talks at US military chiefs in Washington.
According to the IDF bulletin, an extra Patriot missile interceptor and a third Iron Dome battery was deployed in Lower Galilee, a region which covers key towns north of Tel Aviv: Afula, Nazareth, Yoqn’am and Hadera. Batteries were posted earlier outside Haifa and areas of Upper Galilee closer to the Syrian and Lebanese borders.
The Israeli military command is therefore taking into account that some two million Israelis are potentially in danger of missile attack.
The Obama administration cannot be sure if the president’s visit, his first since 2008, will take place before or after a possible confrontation between Israel and Iran, Syria and Hizballah.
As for the political message, the White House announced the coming presidential visit on the day that the newly-elected Israeli Knesset held its first sitting in Jerusalem. It belied the propaganda pumped out by Netanyahu’s political foes throughout the election campaign, accusing him of souring ties with the Obama administration.
By announcing the coming visit at this time, President Obama showed the party leaders who are hanging tough in talks for a coalition government that Netanyahu has his confidence and support and the two leaders are in close rapport on major issues.
Last year, debkafile, alone of any other publication, disclosed that Obama and Netanyahu had reached an understanding to embark on regional initiatives in a spirit of partnership straight after the Israeli election.
President Obama’s trip will also include the West Bank and Jordan.