Barack Obama to speak ‘directly to Israeli people’

President Barack Obama’s whirlwind visit to Israel next month will be full of symbolism and pomp — but there is little expectation that the trip will yield any diplomatic substance.

The president, however, is expected to “directly” address the Israeli nation.

Mr Obama will arrive in Israel on March 20 and spend exactly 48 hours in the Holy Land, five of those in the Palestinian Authority and the rest in Israel, mainly in Jerusalem.

The visit, which will be planned down to the minute, will be more of a film production. It even has a title — “Unbreakable Alliance” — and an official logo, which will be decided by popular vote on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Facebook page.

Since this will be a state visit, the official host is President Shimon Peres, who will confer upon Mr Obama the new Presidential Medal in recognition of his administration’s support of Israel, most recently in the funding of the Iron Dome missile defence system.

Senior officials have confirmed that the president will not bring a new peace plan. Mr Obama is expected to repeat his opposition to a unilateral Israeli strike on Iran and his belief that diplomacy and sanctions can work, all positions that Mr Netanyahu has heard from him before.

The only departure from protocol is expected to be a speech in which the president is planning to speak “directly to the Israeli people”.

The venue is still unknown, and it is expected to be a call to Israelis and Palestinians not to give up on the two-state solution.

Last updated: 10:45pm, February 21 2013