Obama has never visited Israel as U.S. President. In 2008 he visited it as a presidential nominee. The exact date of his visit has not been announced yet. Some Israeli mass media say that Obama may start his tour at the end of March. By that time Israel’s right-wing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is due to complete the formation of the new Coalition Cabinet.
The main question analysts are trying to answer now is what Barack Obama will take with him to the Middle East and whether he will be able to change cardinally the current situation. Under Netanyahu Israel has turned into the most difficult ally of the USA in the region. There is a strained relationship between Obama and Netanyahu. The White House Press Secretary Jay Carney has warned that it is very unlikely that this visit will produce new initiatives.
Russian experts have a similar opinion. The traditional topics, including Iran’s nuclear problem, Syria, the Palestinian settlement, and Israeli settlements will be discussed, an analyst with the Russian Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Dmitry Maryasis, says.
"I don’t think that his visit will give rise to cardinal changes on this track. Honestly speaking, I can name not one of the U.S. presidents who has effected a cardinal breakthrough in the Middle East in the past 20 years. After the Camp David Accords of 1979 that were signed under Jimmy Carter nothing important happened. And it is rather doubtful that Barack Obama will succeed in this."
On the other hand, presidential visits to the Middle East, which is a very important region, can’t be only protocol format visits. Besides, March 20th marks the 10th anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq. It is very hard to believe that Obama would ignore this date. The more so as he would like to do something for the Middle East peace process that he could put down to his credit, as the members of his administration say.
Most likely, Obama will try to involve Israel in the nuclear disarmament process or in the construction of democracy in the region, or even will try to invite Israel to take part in the development of alternative sources of energy. A well-known political analyst and co-editor of the information-analytical portal Terra America, Boris Mezhuyev says.
"I don’t believe that Obama’s second term will be more pro-Israeli than the first one. And his new appointments offer proof of this. Hillary Clinton was the most pro-Israeli figure on Obama’s team. All those people are already gone, and the ones who have come to replace them think globally and realistically."
Both Israeli and American newspapers pay attention to the fact that ahead of Obama’s planned visit, confidential meetings between the chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat and his Israeli counterpart Yitzhak Molho had become more frequent. The US media believes that Obama may make an attempt to arrange a meeting between Netanyahu and the Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas. This might prove helpful in re-activating the Israeli-Palestinian talks that were suspended more than 2 years ago. Before Obama’s visit to the Middle East new U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will go there. It is not ruled out that Obama will also visit Saudi Arabia, Egypt or Turkey.