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Obama hosts Israel president amid fears of Palestinian crisis




US President Barack Obama welcomes Israel’s president to the White House Wednesday, with both sides eager to prevent a deeper crisis between Israel and the Palestinians.

Obama will host Reuven Rivlin, with the decades-long peace process in deep-freeze and fears growing in Washington that the Palestinian authority may collapse and more frustrated Palestinians will turn to violence.

Obama has admitted there will be no lasting solution to the conflict during the year he has left in office.

But a spike in violence has left policymakers on both sides worried, and looking for even modest steps.

A spate of assaults on Israeli soldiers and violence between Palestinians and Israeli settlers has killed more than 100 Palestinians and 17 Israelis, as well as one American.

Obama and Rivlin will discuss the “need for genuine advancement of peace between Israelis and Palestinians and a two-state solution,” according to White House spokesman Josh Earnest.

Before heading to Washington, Reuven called for out-of-the-box thinking, while seemingly ruling out the prospect of a permanent peace deal any time soon.

“What is the positive legacy we will bequeath to future generations in terms of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?” he asked in a Washington Post editorial.

“I regret to say it does not appear that we will be able to bequeath them peace — but we can leave them other breakthroughs. Even if these are localized or embryonic, we can build trust between the two peoples and leaderships, so that they will not begin like us today, starting from scratch.”

– ‘Unbreakable bond’ –
Publicly, Obama and Rivlin are expected to stress close ties between the United States and Israel.

Obama will be keen to show that this poor relations with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are not indicative for broader US-Israel ties.

The White House had been infuriated by Netanyahu’s decision to appear in Congress at Republicans’ invitation and urge US lawmakers to vote against a deal to curb Iran’s nuclear program.

Obama views the deal as a signature achievement that will close down Tehran’s pathway to getting a bomb.

Netanyahu had also caused consternation from the White House by suggesting that a two-state solution was dead, although he later backtracked.

In contrast, the White House has announced that “Rivlin will also be an honored guest at the White House’s annual Hanukkah reception,” later in the evening.

Stressing close ties with Israel will do Obama’s Democratic allies no harm at a sensitive point in the US political calendar.

Republicans hoping to replace Obama and the Democrats in the White House have assiduously, although sometimes awkwardly, courted Jewish voters, vowing to rip up the Iran nuclear deal or consider an all-Jewish cabinet.

All 14 Republican contenders for the White House took part in a forum backed by conservative billionaire casino magnate Sheldon Adelson.

Meanwhile, Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump is expected to travel to Israel to meet Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on December 28.

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