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Obama to Leave for 'Very Important' Visit to Israel

  • VOA News

U.S. President Barack Obama meets with Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, March 5, 2012.

U.S. President Barack Obama meets with Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, March 5, 2012.

U.S. President Barack Obama will leave Washington later Tuesday for Israel, the West Bank and Jordan - his first visit to the region as president.

Obama arrives with a new Israeli government featuring pro-settlement ministers taking office and Palestinians showing little optimism for a peace deal.

Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes calls this a very important trip for the president. He says there is no substitute for Obama delivering his message of support for Israel's security directly to the Israeli people.

Rhodes also says the United States has made a significant investment in the Palestinian Authority, which he calls the legitimate leadership of the Palestinian people.

But Palestinians say they have been disappointed with Obama so far, and see little reason for optimism in his second term. Obama's criticism has had little effect on Israeli settlement activity in East Jerusalem and the West Bank - areas the Palestinians want as part of a possible future state.

Obama also will stop in Jordan, where the United States has been helping officials cope with the flood of Syrian refugees.
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