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OP-ED: Obama's visit to Israel
March 21, 2013, 05:00 AM The Jerusalem Post

U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Israel is being billed by Washington insiders as primarily a "charm offensive." They have suggested that the American leader wants to communicate directly with the Israeli people, voicing his strong support for Israel and its security.

Obama will no doubt praise the U.S.-funded Iron Dome system, which operated so successfully during Operation Pillar of Defense last November. It is a powerful symbol of the "unbreakable alliance" that both Israel and the United States want to convey during the president's visit.

The White House has made it clear that Obama will not be bringing with him grandiose plans to jump-start the long-stalled peace process with the Palestinians. This represents a change in Washington's approach to a historic presidential visit to the Jewish state.

In Obama's first term, the assessment seemed to be that it made no sense to come to Jerusalem as long as negotiations with the Palestinians were stalled and the U.S. president could have no tangible diplomatic achievements to show the American people.

As the leader of the Jewish people, who have been threatened with destruction by Iran's leaders, Netanyahu wants assurances that the US will launch a military strike if necessary to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran.

The Atlantic's Jeffrey Goldberg quoted "several sources" in Amman and Tel Aviv saying that Israeli drones were monitoring the Jordan-Syria border on Jordan's behalf and that military and intelligence officials from the two countries are in constant contact, planning for the inevitable chaos post-Bashar Assad.

Israel is also concerned that a large amount of arms -- including huge caches of chemical and biological weapons -- could fall into the wrong hands.

There are, however, a number of substantive issues -- including Iran and Syria -- on the agenda that need to be addressed during Obama's meetings in Jerusalem and Amman. And this should make the U.S. president's visit to the region more than just a "charm offensive."

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