Obama's Middle East Itinerary

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Transcript from Thursday briefing on Mideast trip
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What's the President doing in the Middle East next week? Here's part of today's briefing from Ben Rhodes, Deputy National Security Advisor: 

The President will arrive in Israel on Wednesday of next week.  He will begin his program with an arrival ceremony at the airport with both President Peres and Prime Minister Netanyahu.  Following that arrival ceremony, where each of the leaders will speak, the President will view an Iron Dome battery.  The U.S. investments in support for the Iron Dome System has been one of the clearest manifestations of our support for Israel and its security.  We’re very proud that the Iron Dome System has saved numerous Israeli lives in helping to deal with the threat from rocket fire.  The President's visit to the Iron Dome battery, again, is a signal of that continued support for Israel and its security, and the close relationship and partnership that we have on the security issues. 

Following that, the President will have meetings throughout the afternoon with both President Peres and Prime Minister Netanyahu.  First, he will meet with President Peres at his residence.  The two Presidents will have a chance to spend some time together and make statements as well.  Following that, the President will go to Prime Minister Netanyahu’s residence, where he’ll have a chance to have a bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu, followed by a press conference, and then followed by a working dinner. 

The President and Prime Minister Netanyahu, as you’ve heard us say, have spent more time together one-on-one than, frankly, any other leader that the President has spent some time with since he came into office.  They’ll have an opportunity to have a very wide-ranging discussion on the various issues -- security, political, and economic -- that I referenced earlier.  And that will conclude the President’s first day there.

The next day, Thursday, the President will begin by going to the Israel Museum.  At the Israel Museum, he will view the Dead Sea Scrolls, which are a testament, of course, to the ancient Jewish connection to Israel and, frankly, a marvel that the Israelis have restored within the Israel Museum in a very substantial, impressive way.  So the President very much looks forward to the opportunity to see the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Following that, he’ll be visiting a technology exposition, also at the museum, in which he’ll be able to see some of the remarkable signs and technological progress that’s been made within Israel, some of the remarkable innovation that is helping to fuel the Israeli economy and, frankly, the global economy.  And it’s also the foundation of significant U.S. and Israeli economic cooperation.  And I think, again, seeing the ancient connection through the Dead Sea Scrolls and then the future that is being forged in Israel through the technology exposition I think will be a very powerful experience.

Following that, the President will travel to Ramallah.  In Ramallah, he will have a bilateral meeting with President Abbas of the Palestinian Authority.  And then the two leaders will have a press conference and then they’ll have a working lunch together.  Again, the United States has supported the significant institution-building that the Palestinian Authority has undertaken in the West Bank.  It’s a chance to discuss our continued support for the PA, as well as to discuss ways to advance Israeli-Palestinian peace going forward.

Following the working lunch, the President will join Prime Minister Fayyad at the Al-Bireh Youth Center, also in Ramallah.  Again, this is an opportunity for the President to see firsthand some of the work that’s being done to develop institutions on the West Bank, and also to meet with a range of Palestinian young people and hear directly from them as well.  So that will complete that portion of his time in Ramallah.

Then he will go to the Jerusalem International Convention Center later that afternoon, where he will deliver a speech to the Israeli people.  The speech -- frankly, the President very much wanted to have the opportunity to speak not just to Israelis, but to Israeli young people, so we've worked to help build a crowd that will bring in a significant number of Israeli university students from the many universities that our embassy partners with within Israel. 

The President's speech I think will focus on the nature of the ties between the United States and Israel, the broad agenda that we work on together on security, on peace, on economic prosperity.  And I think he'll have a chance to speak to the future of that relationship, so discussing not just the nature of the challenges that we face today, but where the United States and Israel are working to move together as we head into the future of the 21st century.

Following that speech, later that night, the President will be hosted at a dinner by President Peres.  And President Obama was honored to present President Peres with the Medal of Freedom, the highest U.S. civilian honor, last year at the White House.  Now he is very much looking forward to having a dinner with President Peres and a broad range of prominent Israeli leaders at the state dinner at the President's residence.  And then, that will conclude the program on Thursday.

On Friday, the President will begin his day by going to Mt. Herzl, where he will lay a wreath at both the graves of Herzl and Rabin, speaking, of course, to the significant contributions that both of those huge figures in Israeli history and Jewish history -- to their contribution. 

Following those wreath-layings, he will visit Yad Vashem and tour Yad Vashem, and have a chance to lay a wreath and make remarks there, of course, marking the very somber and powerful history of the Holocaust.  The President was able to travel there previously in 2008 as a senator and was very deeply moved by that experience, and it's an important opportunity to once again mark that particular tragic element of our shared history.

Following the visit to Yad Vashem, the President will travel to Bethlehem where he will tour the Church of the Nativity.  Both Bethlehem and the Church of the Nativity are obviously very important sights in the West Bank -- important to the Palestinian people, also important to Christians in the region and around the world.  And so it will be a very powerful experience for the President to be able to have the experience of touring the Church of the Nativity and observing firsthand that history and experience. 

That will conclude the President's time in Israel and the West Bank.

He will then travel to Jordan.  And that afternoon, after he arrives in Jordan, there will be an arrival ceremony.  Then he will have a bilateral meeting with King Abdullah.  The two leaders will have a joint press conference.  Then that night, the President will be hosted at a dinner by King Abdullah.  And he will be spending the night there in Amman. 

Then the next morning, the President will travel to Petra, which is obviously a sight that the Jordanian people are very justly proud of.  And so he'll have an opportunity to see something that is of great value to people all across the region and particularly in Jordan. 

And I anticipate an agenda that will cover regional security issues, the situation in Syria, the very significant refugee challenge within Jordan, the Israeli-Palestinian issue and our ongoing support for political and economic reform in Jordan. 

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Apr
23

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