As President Obama begins his trip to Israel on Wednesday, don't expect much of anything to happen. The president will visit all the regular spots, including a stop at the Israel museum and a speech at the Jerusalem International Convention Center. He'll eat dinner with President Shimon Peres and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and he'll make a stop at the Iron Dome missile defense system, which was paid for with over $200 million of American money.
What he won't do is make any kind of major change to U.S. policy towards Israel. Prime Minister Netanyahu will likely push Obama to take a tougher stance against Iran before the country reaches Netanyahu's famous "red line" level of uranium stockpiles. But it's extremely unlikely that Obama will pull the U.S. into war with Iran. Last week, he told an Israeli TV station he sees "a window of time where we can resolve this diplomatically, and that it is in all of our interests."
But just because Obama won't back Bibi on war with Iran doesn't mean the U.S. is abandoning Israel. Since 2001, U.S. aid to Israel has hovered between $3 and $4 billion a year, and it shows no signs of stopping. And the U.S. public's support for Israel is at an all-time high, meaning Obama has no reason whatsoever to rock the boat.
So what is the purpose of Obama's trip to Israel? Maintenance. Even if he were planning a radical change in US policy regarding Israel, which is highly unlikely, it wouldn't be necessary for him to come to Israel to do it—he could send the Secretary of State to work out the details, for example. The real purpose of his trip is to show support for the Israeli people and keep up relations with the new government.
This is, of course, an important thing for a head of state to do in and of itself. But when Obama comes to Israel, expect more handshakes than fireworks.
This is part one of a two-part analysis of Obama's trip to Israel and Palestine. For a look at what Obama will do when he meets with the Palestinian Authority, click HERE.