LIVE BLOG: Obama en route to Israel in Air Force One
As last preparations are made ahead of Obama's visit, Israel braces for road closures; Secretary of State Kerry has already arrived; Haaretz brings you live updates and reports.
U.S. President Barack Obama has taken off and is on his way to Israel on board Air Force One. Accompanying Obama are two top Jewish Democrats: Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), the chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, and Rep. Eliot Engel.
U.S. Secretary of State Kerry arrived in Israel on Tuesday evening, ahead of the president, who scheduled to arrive Wednesday. On Wednesday, Kerry will join President Obama for meetings in Jerusalem and Ramallah and fly with the president on Friday to meet with Jordan’s King Abullah II. By 9:00 PM on Saturday night, Kerry will be back in Jerusalem for a dinner meeting with Netanyahu
3:30 A.M. Accompanying Obama are two top Jewish Democrats: Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), the chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, and Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), the ranking Democrat on the U.S. House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, JTA reported.
1:30 A.M. U.S. Air Force One carrying Barack Obama takes off.
11:02 P.M. A bipartisan group of 77 U.S. Senators sent a letter to U.S. President Obama urging him to reaffirm his commitment to working closely with the new government of Israel, and to oppose Palestinian efforts to either circumvent direct negotiations with Israel or delegitimize Israel.
“Palestinian efforts to bypass direct negotiations with Israel by taking unilateral steps for international recognition are, in our view, unacceptable,” the letter reads. “When you meet with Palestinian leaders, you should make clear that the pathway for peace is through unconditional direct negotiations between both the Israelis and Palestinians and that the United States vigorously opposes any Palestinian efforts to circumvent direct negotiations.”
10:33 P.M. As per the White House delegation's request, the president will meet with Opposition Leader and Labor Party chair Shelly Yacimovich on Thursday evening at the President's Residence. Although Yacimovich will only officially become the leader of the opposition 14 days after the government has been sworn in.
10:14 P.M. According to a Dialog poll conducted among 473 Israelis ahead of the American president's visit this week, 60 percent of Israelis said they do not believe Obama's visit will help jumpstart negotiations with the Palestinians; 27 percent said they believe it would help, while 14 percent said they don't know.
8:57 P.M. Palestinian police scuffled with scores of demonstrators protesting against the visit of U.S. President Barack Obama to the West Bank later this week.
Dozens of officers and plainclothes policemen prevented the crowd from reaching the main offices of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah, leading to shoving, but no serious injuries.(Reuters)
8:10 P.M. Over 2,000 thousand gathered outside President Shimon Peres' residence in Jerusalem in a protest calling for the release of Jonathan Pollard ahead of Obama's arrival. (Yair Ettinger)
7:04 P.M. An anonymous death threat against President Obama was phoned in to the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv Tuesday evening. The caller threatened to kill Obama during his visit in Israel. Embassy security personnel passed the information onto Israel Police, who tracked the call to a suspect in Afula, who is thought to be behind the call. The police are investigating the man and his motives.
6:32 P.M. A series of new polls by the Pew Research Center have been released in advance of President Obama’s visit to Israel. The poll was carried out between March 13-17 among 1501 American adults. One poll shows a solid majority of the American public (64%) would support a U.S. military action against Iran in order to prevent Tehran from developing nuclear weapons
6:16 P.M. Highway 1 connecting Jerusalem to Tel Aviv has been reopoened after Kerry's security detail passes.
6:11 P.M. Flights arriving and departing Israel's Ben Gurion Airport may experience delays Wednesday afternoon as U.S. President Barack Obama arrives for his two-day visit.
5:33 P.M. John Kerry lands in Israel.
5:17 P.M. Kerry scheduled to arrive at Ben Gurion Airport in a matter of minutes. Traffic patrols waiting to escort him to Jerusalem.
3:00 P.M. Highway 1's eastbound route, which connects Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, is to be periodically closed to traffic between 4:30 P.M. and 6:30 P.M. Tuesday as Kerry arrives in Israel. Police ask drivers to plan trips to the capital accordingly.