Barack Obama Visits Holocaust Memorial and Yitzhak Rabin's Grave

Emotional Coda to Historic Presidential Trip to Jewish State

Solemn Moment: President Obama lays a wreath at the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial.
getty images
Solemn Moment: President Obama lays a wreath at the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial.

By Reuters

Published March 22, 2013.

(page 2 of 2)

But in a speech on Wednesday, he has also urged Israelis to push their political leaders to take risks and secure peace with the Palestinians, calling on his audience of university students to put themselves in the shoes of their occupied neighbours.

Winning applause in Jerusalem, the president received a cooler reception on Thursday during talks in the West Bank with Palestinians, who are disappointed Washington is not applying more pressure on Israel to halt settlement activity.

Obama has reiterated to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that settlement building in the West Bank, land the Palestinians want as part of a future state, was detrimental to peace efforts.

But he retreated from the overt calls during his first term for a halt to the building and he has offered no new peace initiative during his trip, saying he had just come to listen.

After a final round of talks with Netanyahu on Friday, he will meet Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas again when he visits to the West Bank city of Bethlehem to see the Church of the Nativity, where Christians believe Jesus was born.

The tour is seen as a message of solidarity to dwindling Christian communities in a turbulent region.

ARAB SPRING

Obama will then head to Amman where he hopes to reassure Abdullah of Washington’s support at a time when it is flooded with refugees from Syria and battling economic difficulties and tensions from the “Arab Spring”, aides say.

Obama and Abdullah will discuss the spillover of the Syrian conflict to Jordan, where an influx of more than 350,000 refugees has strained resources.

Obama backs the Syrian opposition’s effort to oust Syrian President Bashar al-Assad but has limited its support to non-lethal aid to anti-government rebels despite growing calls from European and Gulf Arab allies to take a stronger tack.

The king has taken a mostly cautious line on Syria, calling for Assad to go, but advocating a political solution and not arming the Syrian leader’s foes. Jordanian authorities worry that any emergence of Islamist rule in a post-Assad Syria could embolden Islamists who are the main opposition group in Jordan.

Also on the agenda will be the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Jordan is one of only two Arab states - Egypt is the other - to have signed peace treaties with Israel and is seen as a potential player in any future U.S.-led peace push. It also has a majority Palestinian population.

The state of Jordan’s troubled economy, which receives nearly $360 million in U.S. economic assistance, will also be on the agenda.

Obama will encourage Abdullah to press ahead with a programme of economic and political reform. Jordan has been the scene of mostly peaceful street protests, rather than the uprisings that have shaken other Arab countries, and the king has responded with cautious steps toward democracy



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