Despite being slated to speak at the United Jewish Communities General Assembly on Tuesday, U.S. President Barack Obama said on Sunday that he will instead be attending a memorial service for the American soldiers recently killed at Fort Hood, Texas.
White House officials said that Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel will address the 3,000 prominent Jewish guests from around the world expected to attend the assembly, instead of the president.
U.S. officials said that the President will meet with Prime Minster Benjamin Netanyahu in a last-minute meeting on Monday, before heading to Texas for the memorial ceremony.
Officials in the Prime Minister's Office tried on Saturday to lower expectations over the importance of a meeting with Obama, which was only scheduled on Sunday morning.
"It won't be the end of the world if it doesn't happen," they said.
On Sunday, after Netanyahu and his staff departed for Washington, there were still conflicting reports about whether the meeting with Obama would take place.
Alongside Netanyahu, several top ministers will be addressing the GA, including Defense Minister Ehud Barak, opposition leader Tzipi Livni, Israel's Ambassador to the United States Michael Oren, Jewish Agency Chair Natan Sharansky, JDC CEO Steven Schwager, and more.
On Tuesday Netanyahu is to fly to Paris, where he is scheduled to meet with President Nicolas Sarkozy on Wednesday. The prime minister's Paris visit comes just two days before that of Syrian President Bashar Assad, who will also meet with Sarkozy. Netanyahu has not signaled interest in renewing negotiations with Damascus, but stagnation in talks with the Palestinians may force him to do so.
Obama sent a video message that aired in front of thousands of people who gathered at Tel Aviv's Rabin Square on Saturday to remember slain prime minister Yitzhak Rabin at the exact spot where he was gunned down 14 years ago by a right-wing extremist. Remarking on Rabin's quest for peace during his life, Obama said that "Israelis will not find true security while the Palestinians are gripped by hopelessness and despair."
In the video, broadcast at the rally and televised, Obama praised Rabin as a statesman who saw the world through the prism of war and peace. He quoted Rabin as having said that the only battle it was a pleasure to wage was the battle for peace.
Obama added that the answer to all the doubts that accompanied Rabin's quest for peace have to be "yes" as everyone is working toward a lasting peace for Israel and its neighbors.
The U.S. president reassured the crowd that "America's bond with our Israeli allies is unbreakable," and pledged that U.S. support for Israel's defense will never be undermined.
"To all who seek peace I say tonight, you will always have a partner in the United States of America and in my administration," Obama said. "That's why we've been working aggressively for our clear goal, two states living side by side in peace and security."
Want to enjoy 'Zen' reading - with no ads and just the article? Subscribe todaySubscribe now