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Obama to visit Israel in first foreign trip since re-election

The US President will arrive in Tel Aviv to inspect a rocket-and-mortar defence system produced by Israel with American assistance.

Image: Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP/Press Association Images

BARACK OBAMA HAS left American soil for the first time since his January inauguration for a four-day trip to the Middle East.

The US President’s first foreign trip of his second term will take in Israel, the West Bank and Jordan.

It is his first visit to Israel as President of the United States, and it has been earmarked as an opportunity to meet with the new Israeli government, as well as to speak directly to the Israeli people about relations between the two nations.

When he arrives this morning, he will inspect an Iron Dome battery (a short range rocket-and-mortar defence system developed by Israel with the assistance of the US). According to the White House, the system – which cost the US hundreds of millions of dollars – has saved “countless Israeli lives”.

Later today, he will attend bilateral meetings with Israeli President Peres and Prime Minister Netanyahu in Jerusalem.

Despite the busy schedule, Obama’s administration has played down any hopes that a peace deal will be brokered during his time there this week. Ben Rhodes, Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications, says the peace process will be discussed, but so will other pertinent issues that the two countries cooperate on, including the ongoing conflict in Syria and tensions with Iran.

Tomorrow brings both a culturally-significant and politically-important series of events. In the morning, the President will visit the Israel Museum where he will view the Dead Sea Scrolls and a technology expo.

In the afternoon, he will travel to Ramallah in the West Bank and meet with Palestinian Authority President Abbas. They will take part in a working lunch. The two-State solution will be discussed and Obama says he intends to reaffirm US support for Palestinian aspirations.

Following a press conference, President Obama will attend a cultural event at Al-Bireh Youth Center and will meet with Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Fayyad.

According to Rhodes, the most important aspect of the trip will be a speech to Israeli students on Thursday as the President will be able to assure them directly that American will stand by their country and ensure its security and safety against threats from Iran.

Preventing Iran from developing a nuclear weapon and the Syrian crisis from spilling over into the broader region are top priorities of Israel and the United States, although they have differed in the past on precisely how to achieve both ends.

On Friday, he will travel to Jordan, where he will focus on the growing Syrian refugee situation. Obama is due to remain in the Middle East until Saturday.

-Additional reporting by AP

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