Feb. 6 - Israeli and Palestinian officials voice high expectations for U.S. President Barack Obama's upcoming visit to the region. Sarah Sheffer reports.
U.S. President Barack Obama with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas at the U.N. in 2009. Some are hoping for renewed dialogue among the leaders after the White House announced that Obama plans to visit the Middle East this spring. (SOUNDBITE) (English) ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER'S SPOKESMAN MARK REGEV SAYING: "Israel is looking forward to the visit here by President Obama, which will be a demonstration of the very close, intimate friendship that exists between the United States of America and the state of Israel. It will also be an opportunity to talk about the excellent cooperation that exists between our two countries and of course to discuss some of the challenges that we face and first and foremost the threat posed by the Iranian pursuit of a nuclear weapon." But Palestinian officials hope the visit will focus on renewed peace efforts. (SOUNDBITE) (English) PALESTINE LIBERATION ORGANIZATION (PLO) EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE MEMBER HANAN ASHRAWI SAYING: "We hope that it does signal a seriousness of intent in terms of re-engaging in a positive and constructive way, not by launching negotiations for their own sake, but rather by providing vision and by providing clear steps in order to end this Israeli occupation." Obama visited Israel as a presidential candidate in 2008 but drew Republican criticism for not travelling there in his first term. His Republican predecessor, former President George W. Bush, also waited until his second term to go to Israel.