On his first major foreign trip as President in June 2009, Barack Obama went to Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Turkey, but he had no time to stop by in Israel, an oversight that would haunt him for the next four years as he came under brutal attack from many of the Jewish state’s supporters. Taken with his blundered demand for a total settlement freeze on his second day in office, critics saw the failure to visit Israel as further evidence of an administration tilt away from historic support for the Jewish state.
Now John Kerry is making his first overseas trip as secretary of state February 24 to March 6, and as Obama did almost four years ago, he’ll be stopping in Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Turkey, but guess where he won’t be visiting?
He will have time for other stops in Britain, Germany, France, Italy, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar.
His excuse for skipping Israel may be that the President is finally going there on March 20, but that’s lame and what will be remembered most is that Kerry, like Obama on his first trip to the region, didn’t bother taking the time stop by and say Shalom. Given his own political experience as well as Obama’s missteps, you’d think he or someone at Foggy Bottom would know better.
FOLLOW-UP -- It took State several hours to come up with an explanation. Actually two. First, Israel doesn't yet have a new government in place, so there’s no one to see. That hasn't delayed the President's trip, and it's no secret that Bibi Netanyahu kept the American portfolio for himself before and probably will again. Second, Kerry's spokeswoman, Victoria Nuland, said he'd be tagging along with the President next month anyway.
In a related development, Nuland also told reporters Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat is coming to Washington shortly for "consultations" in connection with the President's trip.
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