As the Whitehouse downplays any breakthroughs on President Obama’s upcoming trip to Israel, many vital security issues for both countries will be on the table. Of important issues to be discussed, Iran’s nuclear program and Palestine will likely dominate discussions.
Few believe the visit; Obama’s first to the Jewish State, will rekindle serious negotiations between Israel and Palestine or that any definitive decisions will be made regarding Iran’s nuclear weapons program, but there are opportunities to move forward on several issues.
First and foremost, Obama seems steadfast in removing any doubt from Israelis’ minds that the US has their backs. Obama told Israeli television he expects to address the people of Israel about his commitment to their country.
Apart from discussions with Israel’s Prime Minister Benjanmin Netanyhu, Obama plans to speak to University students, tour Museums and visit the City of Ramallah. The president is also slated to meet with Palestinian leaders in Bethlehem on the West Bank.
And although difficulties between the two leaders have been highly publicized, at least one ambassador disputes those claims.
Michael Oren, Israel's ambassador to the United States wrote in a CNN story that Obama “will be meeting at length with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Contrary to press reports, their relationship has been open and friendly. This will mark their 10th meeting and, indeed, Obama says that he has spoken to the prime minister more frequently than any foreign leader.”
Security will be a huge issue to be covered during the trip. A recent poll finds 70 percent of Americans are concerned about Iran’s nuclear ambitions. Both Obama and Netanyhu have said Iran cannot be allowed to obtain nuclear weapons. Both men say they would prefer diplomatic avenues with Iran, but both agree that military options are on the table if diplomacy fails.
What the two men seem to differ on is Iran’s timeline for developing nuclear weapons. Netanyhu believes Iran is about 6 months away from their goal, while Obama regards them as at least a year away. Israel is concerned the US will wait too long to act and the US seems concerned Israel will act too soon.
Diplomatic channels and sanctions approved by the United Nations have not halted North Korea’s nuclear ambitions and it is felt diplomacy and sanctions are not likely to deter Iran.
So, while the Whitehouse downplays the president’s visit to Israel and Obama himself has said the visit is more about his commitment to the Jewish State, there is a lot to be brought to the table, and it seems the door is open for progress on several fronts.