Senator Obama’s schedule of meetings today in Israel and Palestine speaks volumes about the difficulty he and all American leaders finds themselves in when it comes to being fair and unbiased with the two countries.
After breakfast with the former Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak, a tough and unyielding defense minister, Senator Obama went on to meet another strong contender for the premiership – the Likud leader, Benjamin Netanyahu. After that he paid a visit to Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial, followed by a meeting with the Israeli President, Shimon Peres.
His afternoon schedule calls for a helicopter tour of the “border” between Israel and the West Bank, the tour ended in Sderot. Sderot is a city in the western Negev, South District of Israel less than one mile from Gaza; it has a population of approximately 23,000 and has been an ongoing target of Qassam rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip so many Israelis have abandoned their homes there.
In between those two meetings Obama met the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, in his office in the Muqata in Ramallah.
Of Obama’s 36 hour visit to the Israel/Palestine region, he spent approximately 45 minutes talking to Palestinian spokespersons — this shows how much Obama is concerned about his relationship with Israel.
(During McCain’s last visit to the region he did not visit Palestine — he telephoned President Abbas from Jerusalem)
Obama gave his only press conference of the day from Sderot, not Gaza City.
This to me, is probably the most difficult part of Obama’s foreign trip, not because of physical safety, but because he has to speak to three different audiences (Israelis, Palestinians and Jews in the US) and try to make all three audiences happy at the same time – an insurmountable task at best!