Israeli media is reporting that U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Israel on Tuesday, ahead of President Barack Obama's visit. The news reports said that Kerry will accompany Mr. Obama on his four-day Mideast trip.
Mr. Obama is set to leave Washington later Tuesday for Israel, the West Bank and Jordan -- his first visit to the region as president.
Unlike Mr. Obama, who is scheduled to fly by helicopter from the Israeli airport near Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, Mr. Kerry was taken by car on the main road between the two cities. Israel media reported heavy rush hour traffic jams tied to the closure of the highway for Mr. Kerry.
Mr. 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 Mr. 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 Mr. Obama so far, and see little reason for optimism in his second term.
Mr. Obama also will stop in Jordan, where the United States has been helping officials cope with the flood of Syrian refugees.