Obama Visit Enters Third and Final Day
U.S. President Barack Obama on Friday enters the third and final day of his trip to Israel.
Shortly before 9:00 a.m., Obama is scheduled to visit the gravesites of Binyamin Ze’ev Herzl, the father of modern Zionism, and former Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin. He will place a wreath at both tombs.
At 9:35, the President will visit the Yad Vashem Holocaust institute, and at 10:50 he will hold yet another meeting with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.
After he meets Netanyahu, Obama will visit the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. At 3:30 p.m. he will bid farewell to Israel in a state ceremony at the Ben Gurion Airport. From there he will take off to Jordan, where he will meet King Abdullah II.
On Thursday, President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu toured the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, the largest cultural institution in the State of Israel which is ranked among the world’s leading art and archaeology museums.
The presidential delegation visited specifically the permanent Shrine of the Book exhibition.
Obama then travelled to Ramallah, where he met with Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas. At a press conference with Abbas, Obama stressed that the PA should not impose preconditions on negotiations with Israel, as it has done for years.
The President said that the two state solution was the best way to end the conflict. Obama did not condemn construction in Judea and Samaria, but did say that it was an "obstacle" holding up the peace process.
Obama then returned to Jerusalem, where he gave a speech in front of hundreds of students. During the speech, the President once again called for the two-state solution, adding that “Israelis must recognize that continued settlement activity is counterproductive to the cause of peace.”
Improvising at times and receiving warm applause throughout his speech, Obama eventually reached the point at which he called on Israelis to put pressure on their own government. "Political leaders do not take risks if their people do not push them to take risks," he said. "You must create the change that you want to see. Your voices must be louder than those who would drown out hope."
Obama’s second day in Israel concluded with a festive dinner at the residence of President Shimon Peres.
Before the dinner, Peres bestowed the President's Medal upon Obama. The medal was given to Obama for his unique contribution to Israel's security.
This is the first time in which an honorary decoration is bestowed by an Israeli president upon a president who is still serving in office. Peres received the U.S. President's Medal of Freedom from Obama last year.
The gala dinner at the President's Residence included the prime minister and his wife, various representatives of the Israeli public and senior members of the U.S. administration.