U.S. President Barack Obama has said that he doesn't plan to bring a peace plan with him during his trip to Israel and the Palestinian Authority this week, but rather that he will listen to both sides. However, senior Israeli diplomatic officials say that while a peace plan isn't on Obama's agenda for the trip, it is clear that the American president wants to renew the Israel-Palestinian peace process, a task he has given to John Kerry, his secretary of state.
Kerry is expected to land in Israel on Tuesday night ahead of Obama's arrival on Wednesday. Kerry will accompany Obama during the president's two-day trip to Israel and go with the president to Jordan on Friday. Kerry will return to Israel on Saturday night for further meetings.
Kerry has scheduled meetings with leaders throughout the region in the near future.
The assessment in Jerusalem, as conveyed by a senior government source, is that Obama is bringing the carrot, and that Kerry will return with the stick.
On Monday, Yisrael Beytenu Chairman Avigdor Lieberman tried to dampen expectations for progress in the peace process.
"I think that in the next four years nothing will happen on the Palestinian issue," Lieberman said.
Ahead of Obama's visit, a Washington Post-ABC News poll found that 69 percent of Americans think the U.S. government shouldn't take a leading role in resolving the Israel-Palestinian conflict.
On Monday, a White House spokesman attempted to brush off criticism that Obama will not speak before the Knesset. Instead, Obama will address a crowd of Israeli students at the International Convention Center in Jerusalem on Thursday.
"We're speaking to — the president will speak to all of the Israeli people, in front of an audience of young Israelis who have it within their hands the power to shape Israel's future, and he thinks that's entirely appropriate," Jay Carney said. "And he will be meeting with Israeli officials and government officials, of course, and the president's message will be heard by Israelis who are both members of the Knesset and who are not."
Meanwhile, a rally calling for the U.S. to release convicted Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard was expected to be held on Tuesday evening outside President Shimon Peres' residence in Jerusalem. Pollard's wife Esther was set to attend, accompanied by a number of public figures.
The Iranian nuclear program is a key issue that will be on the agenda during Obama's visit to Israel. On Monday, Obama addressed the Iranian people in a special video marking the Iranian new year. Obama said that the time has come for the Iranian regime "to take immediate and meaningful steps to reduce tensions and work toward an enduring, long-term settlement of the nuclear issue."