Obama prepares for first presidential trip to Israel

March 15, 2013

Obama will address Israeli people in upcoming trip, China picks a new premier, and Egypt’s ruling Muslim Brotherhood spells out why women’s rights would unravel society. Today is Friday, March 15, and this is the World Wrap, brought to you by @dwbronner and @clarerrrr

A municipality worker hangs an American flag on a lamp post near Israeli President Shimon Peres’ residence in Jerusalem, ahead of President Barack Obama’s visit to Israel, March 12, 2013.  REUTERS/Baz Ratner

Obama tries different tack with Israel. President Obama will appeal directly to the Israeli people during his first visit to the country as U.S. president, going over the head of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Israeli media report that Obama will arrive on Wednesday. He will visit several historical sites and make a televised address to university students. Obama also will broach the controversial topic of Iran’s nuclear program with Netanyahu, who has maintained an icy relationship with the U.S. president:

Iran has become the main source of friction in the relationship between Obama and Netanyahu, which Aaron David Miller, a former Middle East negotiator, called the “most dysfunctional” he has ever seen between an American president and Israeli prime minister. He believes a thaw is still possible, especially if Obama hits the right notes in Israel. “He needs to say to them, ‘I understand this is a tough neighborhood and you have a dark history. I’m not trivializing your fears.’ This hasn’t been adequately communicated by this administration,” Miller said.

In a September speech, Netanyahu implied that if Iran reached a “red line” in developing its nuclear program, Israel would respond with military action. Netanyahu predicted Iran would complete the next stage of development by spring of 2013.

China selects new English-speaking premier. On Friday, China’s legislature selected Li Keqiang as the country’s new premier. In his role as leader of the State Council, Li will execute government policy and oversee China’s economy, the second-largest in the world:

As premier, Li is faced with one of the world’s widest gaps between rich and poor, an economy over-reliant on investment spending and a persistently frothy housing market that has stoked resentment among the middle class. “I believe that in this class (of new leaders), his intent to reform is quite strong,” said Chen Ziming, an independent political commentator in Beijing. “He has a close relationship with reform-minded economists. We’ve seen from his speeches after the 18th party congress that the gap between them and him isn’t far.”

Li has a notable command of the English language, indicative of his study of Western institutions. Li’s critics say he helped to cloak the extent of an HIV/AIDS crisis in central Henan when he served as the province’s governor from 1998 to 2004.

Islamists warn giving women rights could destroy society. Egypt’s ruling Muslim Brotherhood has offered ten reasons that a U.N. declaration on women’s rights, which advocates stronger global protection for women against sexual and domestic violence, could unravel society. The Muslim Brotherhood posted the list on their website. It warns that the declaration could upend civil order by allowing women to travel, work, use contraception and control the family budget, among other things:

The Muslim Brotherhood said the declaration would give “wives full rights to file legal complaints against husbands accusing them of rape or sexual harassment, obliging competent authorities to deal husbands punishments similar to those prescribed for raping or sexually harassing a stranger.

Egypt, which has proposed an amendment allowing countries to opt out of the declaration if it contradicts national laws, joins an “unholy alliance” of Russia, Iran and the Vatican in condemning the declaration.

Nota Bene: Reuters has an exhaustive series of devastating photos chronicling the conflict in Syria, in honor of the two-year anniversary of the start of the crisis.


Black Death pit – Work on the London Crossrail project has uncovered thirteen bodies, believed to date back to the era of the Black Death. (BBC)

Farmers heckle Nobel laureate – Myanmar’s Democratic chairperson Daw Aung San Suu Kyi faced angry farmers on a visit to a village that might be displaced by a copper mine. (The New York Times)

What happened to Iraq? – The United States’ 10-year occupation of Iraq was littered with huge misspending and waste and accomplished little, according to the Center for Public Integrity. (The Atlantic)

Bahraini anniversary – Thousands of anti-government protesters clashed with police on the anniversary of Saudi Arabian-led intervention into the region, which quashed a pro-democracy uprising. (Al Jazeera)

Helping hand – Canada might contribute to a Mali peacekeeping mission, says Prime Minister Stephen Harper. (CTV)

From the File:

  • EU rejects French-British push on arms for Syrian rebels
  • Greek anarchists claim small blast at Athens courier firm
  • Turkish Cypriots eye turning to Muslim states for recognition
  • Guinea opposition agrees to election talks with government
  • Kenya’s Odinga delays legal challenge to vote


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