An updated schedule for U.S. President Barak H. Obama's visit to Israel next week indicates that he will visit Palestinian Authority-controlled areas twice – but that he will apparently not visit an Iron Dome installation in the field, as had been planned.
The Iron Dome visit had been set for Friday morning. A schedule released by the White House last week has Obama visiting an Iron Dome installation, where he would receive an in-depth explanation on the technology and how it was used in the recent Pillar of Defense operation to deflect rockets fired at Israeli population centers by Gaza Arab terrorists.
But a new schedule released Monday has Obama visiting Bethlehem during the same period that he was to be visiting the Iron Dome installation. In Bethlehem, Obama is set to visit the Church of the Nativity. Instead of being taken to see an Iron Dome installation, sources in the Prime Minister's Office said, Obama will be shown one after he lands at Ben Gurion Airport on Wednesday.
Obama is scheduled to arrive on Wednesday, March 20, at about noon. After a welcoming ceremony – and, apparently, a tour of the Iron Dome system – Obama will meet with President Shimon Peres. At about 5:30 PM, Obama will meet in private with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. The meeting is set to last about two hours, and afterwards the two leaders will dine together.
On Thursday, Obama will visit the Israel Museum and the Shrine of the Book. At about 11 AM, he will depart for Ramallah, where he will meet with Palestinian Authority chief Mahmoud Abbas and other PA officials. Obama will then return to Jerusalem, where he will head for Binyanei Ha'uma (Israel Convention Center) to speak.
After the speech, Obama will be feted at the U.S. Consulate in Jerusalem, and later will dine with President Peres.
On Friday, Obama will visit Mt. Herzl, where he will lay a wreath on the tombs of Theodor Herzl and Yitzchak Rabin. He will then visit Yad Vashem, and before leaving Israel, he is set to meet with Labor leader Shelly Yechimovich, representing the opposition. Obama will then undertake his visit to Bethlehem, returning later in the afternoon to Ben Gurion Airport, where an official farewell ceremony will be held.
Municipal officials warned Jerusalemites and visitors that traffic was likely to be a nightmare both before and during Obama's visit, with many streets and highways closed in the areas where Obama would be traveling. Preparations for the visit will begin on Sunday. The fact that the visit corresponds with the week before Passover, the heaviest shopping days of the year in Israel, guarantees a traffic nightmare, officials said, as city residents attempt to make preparations for the holiday at stores and markets, especially the Machane Yehuda open-air market.