WASHINGTON – Will President Shimon Peres
be the first Israeli leader to meet with US President Barack Obama at the White House? Such an option is being looked into in Washington these days, as Peres may replace Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
and address the annual American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) conference.
Netanyahu met with Peres during the Passover holiday, informed him that he would not be able to attend the AIPAC conference in early May, and asked him to represent Israel
at the event in his place.
The prime minister decided not to travel to the conference in order to use the coming weeks to form an Israeli policy on the negotiations with the Palestinians and the Syrians before his important meeting with President Obama.
A day after the meeting between Peres and Netanyahu, the President's Residence received an official invitation from AIPAC. Peres has yet to decide whether to accept the invitation. His close advisors are looking into the possibility of preparing an itinerary for the president within less than two weeks.
The decision is expected to be made in the coming days and depends on whether a meeting will be set between Peres and Obama. If the president decides not to go, the AIPAC conference may be attended by Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin or a minister.
Obama's special envoy to the Middle East, George Mitchell, invited
Netanyahu to visit Washington on May 11. However, for internal Israeli reasons – including the pope's visit and budget discussions, this date was rejected.
Talks with the White House indicate that the prime minister will arrive in Washington on the third week of May, most likely on May 17, for meetings with Obama and senior government and Congress officials.
Netanyahu asked Peres to attend the AIPAC conference in his place and the president may accept, if the visit were to include a meeting with Obama.
The first Middle Eastern leader to meet the US president at the White House will be Jordan's
King Abdullah, who arrived in Washington over the weekend and is expected to meet with Obama on Tuesday.
According to a Jordanian source, King Abdullah will present President Obama with a dangerous Mideast reality, should he refrain from working firmly to advance the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians.