President Barack Obama’s upcoming visit to Israel is not meant at presenting a new proposal for peace talks with the Palestinian Authority, the White House clarified on Wednesday.
White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters that the timing of the visit is intended to coincide with the beginning of the second terms in office of both Obama and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.
Carney stressed that “whenever the President and the Prime Minister speak, and certainly every time the president speaks with Palestinian Authority leaders, these issues come up" but noted that "this is not the purpose of this visit.”
Referring to the preliminary visit to Israel by the new Secretary of State, John Kerry, the White House spokesman said while Kerry will be looking for options to re-launch the peace process, that is not the purpose of the visit.
Carney confirmed on Tuesday evening the reports in the Israeli media that Obama would be visiting Israel, for the first time as president.
Obama will also visit the Palestinian Authority and Jordan "to continue his close work with Palestinian Authority officials and Jordanian officials," Carney added, saying that "additional details, including dates of travel, will be released at a later time."
He said that Obama discussed the visit while on the phone with Netanyahu on January 28, shortly after the prime minister was re-elected for the third time in last month's election.
Netanyahu has publicly named the resumption of Israel-PA talks as one of his top priorities for his upcoming term, fueling speculations that this is the purpose of Obama’s visit.
The PA has so far refused to talk with Netanyahu unless Israel agrees to several conditions, including a full construction freeze everywhere east of the 1949 armistice line, including much of Jerusalem.
PA leaders have also demanded that Israel release terrorist prisoners, allow weapons imports, and agree in principle to giving the PA all of Judea and Samaria, with possible land swaps, for the creation of a new Arab state.
The PA said on Wednesday it has high hopes for Obama’s upcoming trip to the region. PA officials expressed hope that Obama’s visit “will lead to the establishment of an independent Palestinian state on the Palestinian lands occupied since 1967.”