Only four American Presidents have visited Israel during their terms as President: Nixon, Carter, Clinton and George W. Bush. President Obama will now be added to that list when he visits the Holy Land for three days beginning March 20th.
Since it is apparently unusual for a President to visit Israel, the question is “why?” and “why now?” especially given that he and Israeli Prime Minister have not enjoyed the strongest of relationship.
It is good politics for Obama to visit on Netanyahu’s soil as both leaders are beginning new terms in office. It is hoped that this visit will reconfirm America’s position of support for Israel, especially with issues heating up in nations surrounding them.
Peace talks broke down in 2008 when Palestinians refused to negotiate until Israel stopped building settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, which is the land they want to use for their future state. However, Israel has refused to stop settlement advancement in these areas as they captured this land in the 1967 Six-Day War. They believe negotiations have been marred because the Palestinians refuse to continue peace talks without preconditions. At the same time Palestinians seek statehood, they continue to refuse to recognize Israel as the Jewish homeland. These are issues that have been stifling relationships for years and likely with not be settled anytime soon.
Palestinian officials say that they hope that Obama’s Israel visit is an indication of his readiness to continue to encourage Middle East peace efforts. According to the Associated Press, Palestinians believe that “…negotiations can only resume if Washington is ready to get tough with Israel.” Former Palestinian security chief and prominent West Bank official, Jibril Rajoub said, “If there is anyone who can press the Israelis to change their attitude, it’s the American president.”
According to the Associated Press, “U.S. officials said Obama will meet with Netanyahu and Palestinian leaders and will stress the importance of getting the parties back to the negotiating table, but that the administration does not see immediate revival of the peace process as a realistic prospect. Although Obama plans to meet with Netanyahu and the Palestinian leaders and stress the importance of getting back to the negotiation tables, white house spokesman Jay Carney stated, “That is not the purpose of this visit.”
Because Song For Israel pledges support for Israel as a strong ally, we are asking for everyone to pray (right now) for the following:
- Please pray for this meeting of our leaders that it would be a positive visit. Pray for a healing in the prickly relationship between Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Obama. Pray that Obama gains empathy for the pressures the Israelis live under.
- Pray that God visits Obama and puts on his heart the importance of supporting this nation.
- Pray for wisdom of both leaders as they try to sort out the threatening issues surrounding Israel. Pray that they can develop a strategic understanding of how to proceed with the Iran and Palestinian issues.