Obama Lands in Israel Amid Low Expectations

Iran, Syria, Palestine will be discussed
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 20, 2013 6:42 AM CDT
Updated Mar 20, 2013 7:30 AM CDT
Obama Lands in Israel Amid Low Expectations
President Barack Obama is greeted by Israeli President Shimon Perez, left, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv, Israel, March 20, 2013.   (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

President Obama arrived in Israel today for his first visit to the country since taking office, the AP reports, calling the itinerary "laden more with symbolism than substance." Foremost on the agenda: Iran's nuclear program, the Syria conflict, and the Israel-Palestine peace process. Obama is meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu today, and Netanyahu is expected to ask for a "red line" for Iran to ensure military action is taken if the country gets too close to developing an atom bomb, NBC News reports. Israel is also concerned about Syria's conflict creating instability in the border zone between the two countries.

Obama will also be visiting the Palestinian Authority and Jordan for the first time this week, before flying home Saturday. But his meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is not seen as "positive," a PLO official tells Reuters, and Obama is not expected to make much progress in restarting stalled peace talks. In fact, some don't expect him to make much progress on anything. "This seems to me to be an ill-scheduled and ill-conceived visit," says the president of a Tel Aviv-based think tank. "On the Iranian situation, Israel and the USA don't seem to have anything new to say to each other. On Syria, the Americans don't have a clear outlook." The White House itself has attempted to lower expectations for any breakthroughs. Politico catches a lighter moment as Obama arrived this morning, in which he jokes, "It's good to get away from Congress." (More President Obama stories.)

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