When President Barack Obama visits Israel later this month, he plans not to visit two important places: the Western Wall and the Knesset.
"President Obama plans to visit the Church of the Nativity, but not the Western Wall, when he travels to Israel next week. He will speak at Jerusalem’s convention center, but not before the Knesset, Israel’s Parliament. And he will inspect a mobile missile-defense battery, though not one in the field, where they protect Israel from enemy rockets," reports the New York Times.
"These, and a host of other scheduling decisions, have been made by the White House as it seeks to orchestrate every minute of Mr. Obama’s first visit to Israel as president. But before he even departs, Mr. Obama is confronting the reality that in a land so freighted with symbolism, any place he chooses to visit, or not visit, can strike a nerve."
Last time Obama was in Israel, when he was a U.S. senator and a candidate the first time around for president of the United States, he visited the Western Wall. He was heckled then.
As ABC reported at the time:
The pre-dawn sky was dark.
And then one man at the Wall began screaming: “Obama, Jerusalem is our land! Obama, Jerusalem is not for sale!”
He kept yelling this for Obama’s entire 10 minutes at the Wall, refusing to stop despite repeated entreaties to do so from the crowd.
Obama chatted with the men with whom he’d come to the Wall, before walking to the Wall to place a note he had previously written between the Wall’s cracks. He put his hand on the Wall, bowed his head and appeared contemplative.
The heckler, not an Obama fan, continued yelling.
Obama turned from the Wall and walked back to his crowd. Some young men tried to drown out the heckler, chanting, “Obama! Obama! Obama!”
After shaking some hands, Obama got back in his motorcade and headed to the airport.
“It was rowdier than the last time I was there, you know?” Obama told reporters on the plane. “I mean, people were sort of, like, holerin’. You know I was expecting more reverence.”
President Bush spoke at the Knesset, as did President Clinton years before that. Obama does not plan to visit the Israeli knesset.