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Obama Meets Arab-American Leaders Ahead of Israel Trip

Obama meets Arab-Americans at the White House, reiterates his Middle East trip is "not dedicated to resolving a specific policy issue."
By Elad Benari
First Publish: 3/12/2013, 5:44 AM

Obama
Obama
AFP photo

U.S. President Barack Obama met members of the Arab-American community at the White House on Monday, ahead of his trip to Israel, the Palestinian Authority and Jordan, a U.S. spokesman said.

During the meeting, Obama reiterated that his trip to the Middle East was "not dedicated to resolving a specific policy issue, but is rather a chance to consult with Jordanian, Israeli, and Palestinian Authority officials about a broad range of issues," the spokesman said, according to AFP.

"(Obama) underscored that the trip is an opportunity for him to demonstrate the United States' commitment to the Palestinian people and to partnering with the Palestinian Authority as it continues building institutions that will be necessary to bring about a truly independent Palestinian state," the source said.

The visit would also see Obama reiterate America's commitment to Israeli security, the spokesman said, while speaking "directly to the Israeli people about the history, interests, and values that we share."

According to the AFP report, the four groups who met Obama, including the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, said in a statement that the United States could broker "a peaceful, lasting resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict - a resolution that is essential to long term security in the Middle East."

Monday's White House meeting, which was not included on Obama's official diary, comes four days after the U.S. leader held similar talks with representatives of the American Jewish community.

During that meeting Obama signaled there would be no big Middle East peace initiative on the table when he arrives in Israel for his first visit as president.

Meanwhile, an updated schedule for Obama's visit to Israel, released on Monday, 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.

The new schedule, however, 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.

Public Security Minister Yitzchak Aharonovich estimated Sunday that there would be more Arab violence ahead of Obama’s visit.

"The Palestinians have not said the final word yet," he said, "and we expect that there will be attempts to take advantage of the upcoming events, like the visit by Barack Obama, in order to continue the violence."