JERUSALEM — U.S. President Barack Obama departs Washington Tuesday for Israel, the first stop of a four-day Mideast trip also taking him to the West Bank and Jordan. Obama will hold talks with Israeli and Palestinian leaders, and will discuss Syria and Iran.
President Shimon Peres and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will greet President Obama on his arrival at Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion Airport. All three will deliver remarks.
Then come bilateral talks, beginning at President Peres' residence in Jerusalem and later with Prime Minister Netanyahu, followed by a joint news conference.
Obama is not carrying any new peace initiative on the Israel-Palestinian conflict. That has led some commentators to describe the visit as largely symbolic.
In a speech at Jerusalem's International Conference Center Thursday, for which there was fierce public competition for tickets, he is expected to cite his record of strong support for Israel and its security.
But the U.S. president also is expected to say that breaking the stalemate in peace efforts to achieve a two-state solution is becoming even more critical amid sweeping changes in the Arab world.
White House officials say that message is important.
"In the past, the peace processes with a variety of countries and partners in the region were between Israel and individual leaders," National Security Council official Ben Rhodes said. "And as you move towards more democratic, more representative and responsive governments, Israel needs to take into account the changing dynamic and the need to reach out to public opinion across the region."
Wednesday's discussions will cover stalled peace efforts, Israeli concerns about Syria's civil war, and the threat posed to Israel by Iran's nuclear program.
"It is really on Iran that the visit will have a lot of import because the president has to convince the Israelis that he has got their back, and the Israelis have to be convinced that he is for real and therefore they should sit on their hands and do nothing," said Dan Serwer, with the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies.
On Thursday, Obama goes to Ramallah in the Palestinian Authority-governed West Bank. He will hold talks with President Mahmoud Abbas before a joint news conference and a visit to a youth center.
Neil Kritz of the U.S. Institute for Peace says Obama will focus his messages to Israelis and Palestinians, making the case that peace is in their interests.
"It is important for the president to convey that the U.S. is committed to a two-state solution, to the existence of a state of Palestine, and that this is something that needs to move forward that both sides need to engage on as well as conveying to publics on both sides that compromises will need to be made," Kritz said.
Friday, Obama visits locations that are highly important and emotional, and religiously significant, for Israelis and Jews, Palestinians and Christians.
He will lay a wreath at the graves of Yitzhak Rabin, Israel's prime minister assassinated by a Jewish fanatic in 1995, and Theodor Herzl, the founder of Zionism.
Obama then visits Yad Vashem, the memorial to the millions of victims of the Holocaust. He returns to the West Bank to visit the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem.
The president concludes his trip in Jordan, where White House officials say he will discuss Syria, refugee flows, and political and economic reforms with King Abdullah.