President Barack Obama has set his first presidential foray into the volatile Mideast for June.
He will go to Jerusalem and the West Bank, where he will meet with Palestinian Authority officials. That’s what U.S. diplomats in the region are telling the Israeli newspaper Haaretz.
The trip will come several weeks after the president’s first meeting with Israel’s new Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Washington.
Obama is now throwing himself into the effort to create a two-state solution for Israel’s conflict with the Palestinians. He said this week that the U.S. stands solidly behind that idea.
A U.S. official tells Haaretz that the Obama administration doesn’t oppose the idea of including the militant Islamic group Hamas in a government for the Palestinians.
But the United States requires that Hamas renounce violence and recognize Israel before it will meet with the group. The White House wants former Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad to lead the next Palestinian government and oversee the Palestinian Authority’s finances.
In speaking with Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak, Obama plans to discuss Iran’s nuclear program. The president, in a speech in Turkey this week, stressed the necessity to keep Iran away from nuclear arms.
Some experts say Obama must go beyond a two-state solution. Robert Malley of the International Crisis Group tells Voice of America: “If I were advising the administration I would say you could work on the margins: Palestinian reconciliation, reaching out to Syria, restarting Syrian-Israeli negotiations, reaching out to Iran.”
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