Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Israel sees Obama visit as chance for positive publicity

A Palestinian woman walks past vandalized posters showing President Barack Obama in Ramallah, West Bank, on Thursday.

Associated Press

A Palestinian woman walks past vandalized posters showing President Barack Obama in Ramallah, West Bank, on Thursday.

JERUSALEM — When the White House tweaked the president's upcoming Holy Land itinerary to include Bethlehem's Church of the Nativity, Israelis feared he wouldn't have time for a field trip to see their beloved Iron Dome missile defense system.

No problem, Israeli officials decided. If Obama can't come to the Iron Dome, the Iron Dome will come to him. One of the five U.S.-funded batteries, which Israel is marketing for sale internationally, will be temporarily repositioned to the airport for a photo op with the arriving president.

Obama's three-day trip to Israel and the West Bank, which begins Wednesday, offers Israelis a rare opportunity to shine before a global audience. They're determined not to squander a second of it.

Politicians and pundits will schmooze with some of the estimated 500 visiting foreign journalists at a government-sponsored cocktail reception, while special excursions are being offered for visitors to highlight the softer side of Israel, from wine tasting to Christian pilgrimage.

Technology companies are putting together a special exhibit of their accomplishments at the Israel Museum, and the Jerusalem International Ice Festival is creating a frozen sculpture in the president's likeness.

The trip even has an official government logo (U.S. and Israeli flags morphed into one), a slogan ("Unbreakable Alliance") and a new smartphone app launched by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office to track every step.

With Palestinian peace talks stalled and no sign that Obama will use the trip to pressure Israel to make new concessions, Israelis are hoping to use the long-anticipated visit to cast themselves in a more positive light: as a world-class society and close American ally.

"Israel does not get many opportunities for positive international attention," said Gabriel Weimann, a political communications experts at Haifa University. "Israel will try to use this as a chance to market itself and show there is more to the country than conflict."

Israel is no stranger to the international limelight, but it usually focuses on the West Bank occupation, settlement construction and threats to bomb Iran's purported nuclear weapons program.

Aside from U.S. presidential visits, the only other time so many foreign journalists descend upon Israel is usually during wars and military confrontations, such as last year's eight-day conflict in Gaza Strip.

For a country often facing international criticism, a U.S. presidential visit is a big deal, officials say.

Jerusalem city workers are busily repairing roads, fixing street lighting and hanging an estimated 1,000 U.S and Israeli flags. The historic Old City walls will have special lighting so the president can enjoy the view from his King David Hotel suite.

Thousands of extra police and other security personnel will be dispatched to clear and secure roads at an overall estimated price tag for Israel of nearly $4 million, though much of the cost of security and accommodation will be borne by the U.S.

Hoping to avoid an embarrassing public confrontation over settlement construction, government officials said Netanyahu has ordered a temporary halt to all hearings or approvals of Jewish housing in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The international community views such housing as illegal.

In 2010, approval of 1,600 housing units in the East Jerusalem development of Ramat Shlomo during a visit to Israel by Vice President Joe Biden created a diplomatic rift.

The Government Press Office is focusing on the hundreds of journalists expected to cover the trip, 250 traveling with Obama and another 250 arriving independently, director Nitzan Chen said.

He noted that with so much regional upheaval in recent years, attention on Israel has diminished and the trip offers a chance to regain some of that. "We're not leading the news anymore," Chen said.

Israel sees Obama visit as chance for positive publicity 03/16/13 [Last modified: Saturday, March 16, 2013 9:03pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

Copyright: For copyright information, please check with the distributor of this item, Tribune News Service.
    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Bucs journal: Kicker Nick Folk has up and downs against Jaguars

    Bucs

    JACKSONVILLE — If the Bucs had hoped for a drama-free night in their kicking game, they'll have to wait another week.

    Bucs kicker Nick Folk celebrates one of his two made field goals against the Jaguars, but he also misses a field goal and has an extra point blocked.
  2. Late night update: Second wave follows Tropical Storm Harvey

    Hurricanes

    UPDATE: At 11 p.m. the National Hurricane Center said a hurricane hunter plane had determined that Tropical Storm Harvey had formed with sustained winds of 40 mph.

    Three tropical waves are expected to strengthen as they move across the Atlantic Ocean. [Courtesy of the National Hurricane Center]
  3. Stealth anti-Jack Latvala group tied to Adam Putnam campaign

    Blogs

    Politico reports:

     A longtime political consultant for Republican gubernatorial candidate Adam Putnam is behind a website calling one of his rivals in the race, state Sen. Jack Latvala, a “liberal.”

  4. Council gives in to pension dispute with St. Pete firefighters

    Local Government

    ST. PETERSBURG — The City Council was forced to consider its first labor dispute in years Thursday when it gave the firefighters union most of the pension enhancements it has long asked for.

    The firefighters’ union won a pension victory at Thursday’s City Council meeting. [SCOTT KEELER    |      TIMES]
  5. Bucs top Jaguars behind strong first half

    Bucs

    JACKSONVILLE

    There is a reason why the air in Tampa Bay is filled with playoff talk. If Thursday night's 12-8 Bucs preseason win over the Jaguars is any indication, it's also going to be filled with footballs thrown by quarterback Jameis Winston.

    Doug Martin gets the Bucs’ only touchdown  on a 2-yard run, squeaking past linebacker Telvin Smith in the first quarter. He has five carries for 30 yards.