Obama to touch down in Israel and the West Bank by end of March

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U.S. President Barack Obama is expected to arrive in Jerusalem on March 20 for a three-day trip which will also take him to the West Bank city of Ramallah, media reports and a Palestinian official said.

According to a draft itinerary published in Israel’s top-selling Yediot Aharonot, Obama will begin his first-ever visit to Israel as president towards the end of March.

He was expected to land at Ben Gurion airport near Tel Aviv then hold talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu later on.

The next day, he would spend the morning holding talks with Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas at his West Bank headquarters in Ramallah.

A Palestinian official, speaking on condition of anonymity, concurred.

“President Obama will visit our area for two days. He will be in Israel on March 20 and March 21 in Palestine,” he told AFP.

Yediot said that after the Ramallah talks Obama would return to Jerusalem and address the Israeli public.

“The Americans have asked that at least 1,000 Israelis be present as an audience,” it said.

It said Obama would also hold a breakfast meeting with Netanyahu on March 22 and join him on a visit to an Iron Dome missile defense battery before leaving for neighboring Jordan.

The White House confirmed the visit last week, but did not give dates for the trip, which it said would include stops in the Palestinian territories and Jordan.

It has kept expectations deliberately low about the possible outcome of the visit, saying Obama has no plans to use the trip to push new proposals to break the more than two-year deadlock in peace talks.

On Sunday, Netanyahu said his talks with Obama would focus on three issues: Iran’s nuclear programme, the conflict in Syria and the diplomatic process with the Palestinians.