WASHINGTON (JTA) — President Obama’s visit to Israel will focus on Syria and Iran, and he will not initiate new peace moves, the White House said.
"This is a trip the president looks forward to making that is timed in part because we have here obviously a second term for the president, a new administration and a new government in Israel, and that’s an opportune time for a visit like this that is not focused on specific Middle East peace process proposals," White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters at Wednesday’s briefing.
"We expect that Iran and Syria will be topics of conversation, but I’m sure a variety of issues will be discussed, as they always are, when the president meets with Prime Minister Netanyahu and other Israeli leaders. And that is certainly the case when he meets with Palestinian Authority officials."
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last September said Iran could reach the point of no return with its suspected nuclear weapons program by the spring. Israel is also concerned that the embattled Assad regime in Syria could unleash its chemical weapons against rebels or transfer them to Hezbollah terrorists in Lebanon, and also that the chemical weapons could fall into the hands of Islamist extremists among the rebel groups.
Carney announced Tuesday that Obama would be making his first presidential visit to Israel and the West Bank sometime in the spring. He also will visit Jordan.