Open Zion

12.10.12

Obama Is Not Headed To Israel

Yesterday, Mondoweiss reported that “an assistant to Obama's foreign policy adviser Samantha Power told a delegation that Obama will be headed over to Israel, and one other country in the region to be decided.” The site’s founder and co-editor, Phil Weiss, noted that although “from a reliable source, none of this info confirmed.”

It can’t be confirmed because, according to Team Obama, it’s not true. Power knows of no such delegation. “The report is incorrect,” says a senior administration official. “The President does not currently have any foreign trips scheduled.”

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U.S. President Barack Obama shakes hands during his meeting with Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, March 5, 2012. (Jason Reed, Reuters / Landov )

The denial strikes me as plausible because, as I wrote this morning, the administration’s emerging approach to Israel/Palestine is “benign neglect”: keep a distance from the conflict and let the rest of the world make Israel a pariah. Although Obama might well want to visit Israel at some point in his presidency, if only to deny his Republican opponents the talking point, it makes little sense to go if he has no diplomatic initiative to promote. Perhaps Obama might visit the Jewish state in the context of an Iran deal, which would likely require a lot of Israeli reassuring. But that’s hardly so imminent that the president would need to begin packing his bags.