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Obama heads to Israel to ease diplomatic tensions while dealing with other international pressures

Obama heads to Israel to ease diplomatic tensions while dealing with other international pressures

POSTED: Wednesday, March 20, 2013 - 7:00am

UPDATED: Wednesday, March 20, 2013 - 7:08am

President Obama lands in Tel Aviv today for what the White House describes as sort of a goodwill mission.

The goal here is a new beginning for two new governments who are facing a broken peace process and the threat of a nuclear Iran.

President Obama arrives amid fanfare at the Tel Aviv airport this morning.

He checks out Israel's missile defense before separate meetings with the President and Prime Minister, seeking a way to push peace talks forward. "It's never too late to try to do damage control in the Middle East even if you may or may not have an opportunity to make peace," says Michael O'Hanlon, Brookings Institution.

Iran is expected to top today's agenda. "What are Iran's intentions of - in Syria? What are Iran's intentions in the Gulf?" asked Joint Chiefs of Staff Chair, General Martin Dempsey.

"A nuclear-armed Iran would be a destabilizing factor in the Middle East," said Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Michael Herzog.

The President's message to Iran this week, "If the Iranian government continues down its current path, it will only further isolate Iran," said President Barack Obama in a video released by The White House.

His speech to college students here - a highlight of the trip. "Israelis want to know in the end will he have their back and that's why he's reaching out to younger generation." Marc Ginsburg / Former Ambassador

The trip comes as Syria accuses U.S. backed rebels of firing a chemical weapon. "We have no evidence to substantiate that charge," said Jay Carne, White House Spokesperson.

Concerns about Mideast security, and Presidential security. Israel says it's received no credible threats, but 15,000 officers are on standby.

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