Obama tours Israel and West Bank

US presidential candidate to reinforce ties with Israel and meet Olmert and Abbas.

    Obama, right, met several Israeli leaders as part of his tour of the country [AFP]

    "Obama is a man whose foreign policy we don't know that much about so far, certainly as far as Middle East policy goes. This visit is designed to join up the dots, if you like," Jacky Rowland, Al Jazeera's correspondent in Jerusalem, said.

    "It will also tick the Israel box in terms of voters in the US, where there is a very broad consensus of support for Israel."

    'Commitment' to Israel

    The Illinois senator had angered many Palestinians when he called for Jerusalem to "remain the capital of Israel and ... remain undivided" during a speech to a pro-Israel lobby in June.

    Palestinians claim East Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian state and say the city's future should be decided as part of peace negotiations

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    Israel has occupied Palestinian East Jerusalem since the 1967 war.

    Upon arriving at the airport outside Tel Aviv, Obama said Tuesday's bulldozer attack was "just one reminder of why we have to work diligently, urgently and in a unified way to defeat terrorism".

    He also said he was "absolutely committed to work with the Israeli government to make sure these occurrences do not happen".

    Obama also expressed his wish to reinforce the "historic special relationship between the United States and Israel".

    Iraq issue

    The US Democratic presidential candidate, who held talks with King Abdullah of Jordan on Tuesday, flew in from Iraq where he had spent two days in talks with Iraqi politicians and US military figures.

    Speaking at a press conference in Amman, Obama reiterated his belief that Afghanistan, where he began his tour over the weekend, should be the "central front" of the US's so-called war on terror.

    He also emphasised that while he believed security in Iraq had improved, there was still the need for a "political solution" and said the goal was still "to have US troops no longer engaged in combat operations in Iraq".

    "I welcome the growing consensus in the United States and Iraq for a timeline," he said.

    "My view is we can safely deploy in 16 months so that our combat brigades are out of Iraq in 2010."

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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