Obama arrives in Israel for two-day trip
President Barack Obama arrived in Israel today for his first visit to the country and the first overseas trip of his second term. But after four years of strained relations between Obama and his counterpart, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the trip is not expected to produce any major breakthroughs on the peace process and is instead expected to focus on regional security issues, including the conflict in Syria and Iran’s nuclear program.
The trip’s centerpiece will be a speech to a group of Israeli youth, and as the rest of his trip’s itinerary indicates — stops at the grave of Theodor Herzl, father of modern Zionism, and a viewing of the Dead Sea Scrolls — Obama’s trip is perhaps aimed more at mending fences with a country he has at times had a testy relationship with and that has exasperated him than producing diplomatic breakthroughs. “I see this visit as an opportunity to reaffirm the unbreakable bond between our two nations,” Obama declared upon stepping off Air Force One in Tel Aviv.
Obama will also meet with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, but he will arrive in the West Bank without any new peace initiative in hand. White House advisers have said that the trip will seek to encourage the Israelis and Palestinians to return to the negotiating table, but with enduring tensions over Israeli settlement activity, a deep rift between Hamas and Fatah, and recent fighting between Hamas and Israel in Gaza, officials in Washington have made no indication how they plan to overcome these serious obstacles.
At the conclusion of his trip to Israel, Obama will travel to Jordan to meet with King Abdullah.
Cyprus: The Cypriot parliament rejected a 10 billion euro bailout package for the country’s banks that would have required a levy on Cypriot bank deposits, a component of the measure that had caused widespread outrage on the tiny island nation. The rejection of the measure forces President Nicos Anastasiades to return to the drawing board and find a way to tweak the measure to save his country’s banking system.