Democratic presidential candidate Senator Barack Obama is scheduled to arrive for a high-profile visit to Israel, the Palestinian Authority (PA) and neighboring countries in an effort to prove that he can handle foreign policy if he wins the presidential election in November. Major American media are preparing full coverage in what they are billing as "a make or break" appearance of the rookie black senator.
Sen. Obama suffered political damage several weeks ago when he told the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) that Jerusalem should be the undivided capital of Israel. After a furious backlash from Arab countries, he hurriedly explained that Israel and the PA must decide the status of the capital. Last week, he further clarified his remarks, stating that he meant that a barbed wire fence should not divide the city, as it did under Jordanian occupation between 1949 and 1967.
The Democratic candidate will meet with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Defense Minister Ehud Barak, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and Opposition leader Binyamin (Bibi) Netanyahu. He also will visit the Western Wall (Kotel), located in eastern Jerusalem that the PA claims must be under its sovereignty if a new Arab state is created in its name.
U.S. President George W. Bush avoided the Western Wall during his trip to Israel in May in order not to antagonize the PA, which he did not visit. Sen. Obama intends to travel to Ramallah, and unusually heavy security will be unusually on the level of a visiting head of state. American Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice encountered raucous demonstrations on her recent visit to Ramallah.
Foreign Minister Livni will travel with Sen. Obama on a helicopter tour over Judea and Samaria before he visits Sderot Mayor Eli Moyal.
The massive press coverage of Sen. Obama's trip has fueled criticism that the America media are biased against Republican presidential candidate Senator John McCain, whose visit to Israel, including Sderot, several weeks ago was barely covered.
The British news agency The Press Association reported that the three major American television networks are sending senior journalists to interview Sen. Obama in Israel, Jordan and Germany.
Conservative radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh predicted, "The coverage of [Sen.] Obama on this trip will be oriented towards countering the notion he has no idea what he is talking about on foreign policy and defense issues and instead will prop him up as a qualified statesman."
"McCain, on the other hand, is a known quantity on these issues and his position does not excite nor fit the mainstream media's narrative on Iraq and Afghanistan, so they simply ignore it and him."