Obama's Israel Visit Highlights Chilly Relations

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JERUSALEM, Israel -- After five years in office, President Obama will pay his first visit to Israel next month. The state visit comes at a stormy time in the relationship between the two countries.

The president's visit will be a busy one, given the number of threats and concerns facing Israel.

"The three things that both the White House [and the Israeli government] are stressing before the visit is number one, Iran; number two, Syria; and number three, the Palestinians," Jerusalem Post diplomatic reporter Herb Keinon told CBN News.

"I think another issue that's going to come up is Egypt, which is a huge topic right now and a huge concern," he continued. "I think they're also going to talk about Jordan and other regional developments." 

During Obama's first term, his relationship with Israel and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hit a number of bumps in the road.

"It's been a rocky road both with the prime minister and the Israeli public," Keinon said. "I think that in the very beginning when Obama came out and called for a blanket settlement freeze everywhere, including in Jerusalem while at the same time not making similar demands on the Palestinians, I think that was seen by many Israelis as an unreasonable demand."

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee told CBN News he hopes Obama does more than just make up with America's longtime ally. 

"I hope he's coming to warm up the relationship that I think by anybody's estimation has been a bit chilly, unnecessarily," Huckabee said.
"What we need is a relationship that is red hot. It needs to be inseparable," the former governor turned Fox News host said. "We need to say to the rest of the world, 'people who believe in freedom and individual liberty, we stick together because we have so much in common.'"

Number one on that list is the common threat of a nuclear Iran. Huckabee also hopes Obama makes that the priority instead of pressuring Israel with the Palestinians.

"I would hope he's not coming here to ask them to do something they've been willing to do," he said. "The Israelis have been more than willing to come to the peace table talks, but they can't come if the Palestinians refuse to believe that the Israelis even have a right to exist."
Keinon says Israelis have been wary of Obama, but he expects them to give him a second chance.

"The Israeli public is not stupid," Keinon said. "The Israeli public realizes that Israel has no better friend in the world than the United States of America.  President Obama is the leader of the United States of America, so you're going to make it work. It's important for it to work."
Obama will only have three days to make it work before he takes off for Jordan.

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Chris Mitchell

Chris Mitchell

CBN News Middle East Bureau Chief

In a time where the world's attention is riveted on events in the Middle East, CBN viewers have come to appreciate Chris Mitchell's timely reports from this explosive region of the world. Mitchell brings a Biblical and prophetic perspective to these daily news events that shape our world.