Obama’s Visit will Reinforce Palestinian Authority, says US Official

JERUSALEM, March 16, 2013 (WAFA) – A senior United States official said Friday that one of the reasons for the upcoming visit of US President Barack Obama to the region is to reinforce US support for the Palestinian Authority.

US Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications Ben Rhodes described in a briefing via satellite from Washington Obama’s three day trip to Israel, Palestine and Jordan as “a very important trip.”

“This visit is not about trying to lay down a new initiative or complete our work on a particular issue,” said Rhodes.

“We felt like this was an important opportunity for the President to go to the region. In Israel, we felt that with a new Israeli government coming into place and a new U.S. term here, this is an important opportunity for the President to consult with the Israeli government on the broad range of issues where we cooperate,” he said.

“We obviously cooperate very closely with Israel on security, intelligence and economic issues. And there will be a broad agenda for our governments to address while the President is in Israel, including our efforts to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon, the ongoing situation in Syria, the developments in the wider region that pose both opportunities and security challenges, and efforts to advance Israeli-Palestinian peace among the agenda,” he said.

Rhodes explained that US involvement in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict did not diminish. “Just the fact that the President is going to the region to meet with Israeli leaders, to meet with Palestinian leaders, I think signals that we’ll continue to be very much engaged,” he said.

“This trip is an opportunity for him to hear from the leaders about what they see as the next steps. So having those discussions will allow us to take stock and consider how we might move this process forward.”

Obama also believes that this will be “a very important time for him to also reinforce US support for the Palestinian Authority,” said Rhodes.

“The US has made a significant investment in the Palestinian Authority as the legitimate leadership of the Palestinian people. And we’re very supportive of efforts, for instance, on the West Bank to develop Palestinian institutions and broaden opportunity for the Palestinian people, even as we continue to work for advancements in the peace process,” he said.

Obama is expected in Israel on Wednesday after which he will visit an Iron Dome battery, which will be “a signal of that continued support for Israel and its security, and the close relationship and partnership that we have on the security issues,” said Rhodes.

The US president will then hold meetings with his Israeli counterpart Shimon Peres and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The next day, Thursday, Obama will begin by going to the Israel Museum. “At the Israel Museum, he will view the Dead Sea Scrolls, which are a testament, of course, to the ancient Jewish connection to Israel and, frankly, a marvel that the Israelis have restored within the Israel Museum in a very substantial, impressive way,” said Rhodes.

After that Obama will travel to Ramallah where he will have a bilateral meeting with President Mahmoud Abbas.

The two leaders will have a press conference and then they’ll have a working lunch together.

“The United States has supported the significant institution-building that the Palestinian Authority has undertaken in the West Bank,” said Rhodes. “It’s a chance to discuss our continued support for the PA, as well as to discuss ways to advance Israeli-Palestinian peace going forward,” he said.

Following the working lunch, the President will join Prime Minister Fayyad at the Al-Bireh Youth Center, also in Ramallah.

“This is an opportunity for the President to see firsthand some of the work that’s being done to develop institutions on the West Bank, and also to meet with a range of Palestinian young people and hear directly from them as well,” explained Rhodes.

Obama will later that day deliver a speech at the International Convention Center in West Jerusalem “where he will deliver a speech to the Israeli people,” he said.

On Friday, Obama will visits graves of Israeli leaders and the Holocaust museum before travelling to Bethlehem where he will conclude his visit with a tour of the Church of the Nativity.

“One of the reasons why we thought it was important for the President to go the Church of the Nativity is this has been a very difficult — there’s been a very difficult series of challenges for Christian communities in the region — not just in the West Bank, but in places like Syria and Egypt and Iraq,” said Rhodes.

“And recognizing the very deep and ancient Christian communities in that part of the world I think is an important thing to do, because in these transitions, we’ve underscored the need to protect the rights of minorities and we’ve underscored the need for pluralism. And I think the visit to the Church of the Nativity is intended to send that signal.”

Source: WAFA News