Israel to warn Obama against Iraqi withdrawal
Democratic candidate to receive privileged welcome upon landing in Israel on Tuesday, political echelon expected to confront him with recent backtracking on Jerusalem's unity, concern over Iraqi withdrawal plans. British PM already in Israel for short visit, agenda to center mostly on Iran
Jerusalem is faced with pursuing several crucial strategic objectives pertaining to the Iranian nuclear threat this week as it prepares for two high-profile state visits.
British Prime Minister Gordon Brown landed in Israel on Saturday evening for a two-day visit and US Democratic candidate Barack Obama is expected here on Tuesday afternoon as part of his overseas campaign tour.
The Israeli leg of Senator Obama's trip will follow stops in Afghanistan, Iraq and Jordan. He is scheduled to meet with President Shimon Peres, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Foreign Affairs Minister Tzipi Livni, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Opposition Chairman Benjamin Netanyahu. He will also travel to Ramallah to meet with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
Livni, who has the most 'Obama time,' will accompany the senator on a helicopter tour over the country as well as on a visit to the rocket-battered town of Sderot near the Gaza border.
In Israel most will focus on two key themes during Obama's tour. The first of these is the candidate's decision to backtrack on statements he made during a speech before AIPAC regarding Jerusalem's status as a unified city.
Faced with criticism from the Arab world after saying he believed "Jerusalem will remain the capital of Israel and it must remain undivided," Obama was quick to packpedal, saying his words had been "poorly phrased." He further said that he had only meant the city should not have a barrier running through it.
The Israeli officials are expected to expound on the vital role the security fence plays.
The second matter at hand is the continued presence of American troops in Iraq. Israel is concerned a hasty withdrawal by the US will strengthen Iran and further destabilize the Middle East. Obama has promised voters that, if elected, he will immediately start implementing a 16-month timetable to withdraw all American troops from Iraq. The senator has said the war there cannot be won and US involvement in Iraq is what is preventing Washington from dealing with the Al-Qaeda terror threat on the Afghan-Pakistani border and the Iranian threat.
As for Brown, he will visit the Yad Vashem center on Sunday morning and meet with President Peres before heading to Bethlehem to meet with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad.
He too will meet with Olmert, Livni, Barak and Netanyahu. The focus of the talks is expected to center around recent diplomatic developments with Iran following the Geneva summit on Saturday.
Israel hopes Britain will put its weight behind efforts to tighten sanctions on Iran before the latter advances its nuclear program beyond the point of return.