Substance or Flash? Obama Leaves for Israel

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President Obama leaves Tuesday for Israel, his first time visiting America's closest ally in the Middle East as president -- and Israelis have noticed.

According to one Israeli newspaper poll, nearly 70 percent of Israelis have an unfavorable or even hostile attitude toward the president.

Meanwhile, a Gallup poll shows American sympathy for Israel is at its highest level in more than two decades.

"If you're Benjamin Netanyahu, what do you want to talk to President Obama about," CBN News's Jennifer Wishon asked the Heritage Foundation's Steven Bucci.

Will any kind of peace plan come out of this visit by President Obama? David Rubin, author of Peace for Peace talks about this and more, on CBN Newswatch, March 19, following this report.

"Right now, about Iran," he replied. "That is his main concern. It is the biggest and actual existential threat to the nation of Israel."

Best-selling author Joel Rosenberg agreed.

"Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu in his famous speech at the U.N. last fall (said) that the red line -- the point by which if Iran crosses it Israel will no longer have the ability to stop Iran's nuclear program -- that red line is approaching sometime between spring and summer. Well, here we are," Rosenberg said.

American intelligence indicates there's more time. But Iran continues to press ahead, even cozying up to North Korea.

"Iran has seen North Korea testing nuclear warheads and its scientists were there at the launch, which means this relationship between Iran and North Korea is very close," Rosenberg told CBN News.

The first place the president will visit when he touches down on Israeli soil is one component of the nation's missile defense system, called the Iron Dome. The White House said it's evidence of the president's commitment to Israel's security.

The president decided against speaking to Israel's Knesset. Instead he'll talk to a crowd of Israeli college students Thursday at the International Convention Center in Jerusalem.

White House officials say he'll speak about America's support of Israel and the future of U.S.-Israel relations. The question policy experts are asking -- will his trip be heavier on optics or substance?

"I mean you can't just visit the Western Wall and pray and visit the Shrine of the Book and go to Bethlehem and do the tourist sites and eat a falafel and make everybody feel happier," Rosenberg said.

The Heritage Foundation's Bucci said Obama's visit is "an enormous symbol and signal to both the country that he visits and the countries around it."

The last thing the president will do before leaving Israel and the West Bank Friday is visit the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem.

A White House official said the president hopes his visit brings attention to the persecution of Christians in the Middle East and the need to protect religious minorities.

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Jennifer Wishon

Jennifer Wishon

CBN News White House Correspondent

Jennifer Wishon is the White House correspondent for CBN News based in the network’s Washington, D.C. Bureau.  Before taking over the White House beat, Jennifer covered Capitol Hill and other national news, from the economy to the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.  Follow Jennifer on Twitter @JenniferWishon and "like" her at Facebook.com/JennWishon.