US President Barack Obama’s three-day visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories will begin on March 20, Israel said on Sunday, in the first official announcement of the much-anticipated visit.
A statement from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s bureau said Obama was due to arrive Wednesday, March 20, at Ben Gurion airport near Tel Aviv and then head to Jerusalem for talks with President Shimon Peres and a dinner meeting with Netanyahu.
The White House has not announced specific dates for the Obama visit, his first to Israel and the West Bank as president.
Israeli media reports and a Palestinian official have said that it will run from March 20-22 and take in talks with both Israeli and Palestinian leaders in Jerusalem and Ramallah.
According to the official Israeli programme released by Netanyahu’s office, Obama is due to visit on Thursday the Israel Museum in Jerusalem and then travel to Ramallah in the West Bank to meet Palestinian Authority officials.
Later on Thursday he is scheduled to deliver a speech at the International Convention Centre in Jerusalem and in the evening attend a dinner reception at the official residence of Peres.
On Friday the American president is to attend a ceremony at Mount Herzl, where he will lay a wreath on the grave of assassinated former prime minister Yitzhak Rabin before heading to the Yad Vashem Holocaust institute.
Obama will also be taken to see a US-funded Iron Dome missile defence battery on Wednesday or Friday, the statement said, before taking off for the next leg of his trip in Jordan.
Obama noted there would be no big Middle East peace initiative on the table during the trip which he said would be “an opportunity to consult with the Israeli government about a broad range of issues — including Iran, Syria, the situation in the region, and the peace process,” a US official said last week.
Palestinian-Israeli peace talks have been deadlocked for more than two years.
Netanyahu has 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.