US Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama is scheduled to receive a red-carpet reception when he arrives in Israel and the Palestinian Authority next week on a whirlwind visit.
The exact date of Mr Obama’s visit is being kept a secret for security considerations also related to his planned visit to Afghanistan and Iraq.
He will arrive for his 24-hour visit to Israel from Jordan. He is due to meet President Shimon Peres, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Defence Minister Ehud Barak, head of the opposition Binyamin Netanyahu, as well as touring Sderot and the environs of the Gaza Strip with Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni.
Mr Obama will also spend an hour in Ramallah, where he will meet Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
Both the hosts and their guest are anxious for the trip to be a success. Mr Obama’s campaign advisers are interested in the coverage that his visit will receive in the US media and hope this will help allay the fears of Jewish voters over his stance towards Israel.
Israeli officials also attach great importance to the visit. They are anxious to clarify the mixed messages Mr Barack has given on issues such as negotiations with the Iranian leadership and the future of Jerusalem.
The itinerary is similar to that of the Republican candidate John McCain who visited Israel two months ago, but according to government sources more fuss will be made over Mr Obama, since Mr McCain’s support for Israel is almost taken for granted.
A senior Israeli diplomat told the JC: “The government is very worried about Obama’s policies, but since he seems likely to be the next president, we are now hedging our bets and putting out the red carpet for him.”
Israel’s leadership is being careful no to show any preference in the US presidential race.
A very senior Israeli politician said this week in a closed meeting that “with all due respect to Obama, there is the President but there are checks and balances, and of course there are the American people who support Israel. The basic attitude of the US towards Israel will not change.”