President Barack Obama concluded his three-day trip to Israel on Friday, and it began early with a trip to Mount Herzl where he laid a wreath on the tomb of Theodor Herzl, the Zionist visionary who imagined the state of Israel but who died 40 years before it came into being.
It was the latest symbolic gesture designed to allay Israeli suspicions that his backing for the Jewish state went beyond his 2009 Cairo speech. Some interpreted that as claiming Israel’s right to exist was based on the Jew’s collective suffering during the Holocaust, and not some more ancient right of return to home soil.
His penultimate stop before heading to Bethlehem was a visit to the Holocaust memorial at Yad Vashem. Later on Friday he goes to Jordan where the focus of his Middle East tour will shift towards Syria. Jordan is one of the main refuges for people fleeing the conflict, and is struggling to cope with the flood of refugees.