WASHINGTON – The National Security Council suggested that US President Barack Obama travel to Israel, but the trip was postponed due to the political dispute surrounding healthcare reform, White House officials told Ynet.
According to the officials, Obama planned on visiting Israel in the coming months due to the drop in Israeli public support for the American leader. The officials said the president is considering giving an interview to an Israeli television station ahead of or during the next UN General Assembly session in September.
Some officials believe Obama should have visited Jerusalem during his Mideast tour in June. As part of that tour the president delivered a speech at Cairo University which was aimed at forging a new relationship between the US and the Muslim world.
White House officials realize that the public row with Israel over the settlements has even angered some Israelis who are in favor of a halt to all West Bank construction. The Americans have significantly lowered their profile on the matter, and are now hinging a settlement freeze on Palestinian action to curb terror activity and on the willingness of Arab countries to take steps towards normalizing relations with the Jewish state.
Meanwhile, the US indicated Friday that its calls on Israel to freeze settlements were not a precondition for restarting Middle East peace talks, as the Jewish state held firm in its refusal.
Obama's administration insisted it was not changing its stance, which has caused friction with the close US ally, that Israel halt all settlements in the West Bank and in east Jerusalem, but State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said the main US goal was to relaunch talks between Israel and the Palestinians, who will decide for themselves on the contours of a peace deal.