The competition between Israel’s major cities over who might get to host US President Barack Obama during his upcoming visit heated up on Monday, when Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai joined an initiative calling on Obama to speak at Rabin Square.
“Like many others, I too am excited by the news of the upcoming visit of President Barak Obama in Israel,” Huldai wrote on his Facebook page, saying he joined the voices of Israelis calling for the president to speak “to the Israeli public” at Tel Aviv’s main square, where prime minister Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated at the conclusion of a pro-peace rally in November 1995.
Obama will be based at Jerusalem’s King David Hotel on a visit set to start on March 20, but whose itinerary is still being finalized. It is likely to be a three-day working visit, packed with political consultations, but will doubtless also include more public events. Initial reports indicated that the president will be accompanied solely by administration officials, but there has been some speculation that his wife Michelle might accompany him.
One Facebook petition, titled “Obama come to the square“, calls on Obama to address the public at the site of former prime minister Rabin’s murder. As of Monday evening some 9,000 people had liked the petition page.
“Just as President Obama spoke to large audiences in other parts of the world, I would be happy and honored to invite him to Tel Aviv-Yafo where he is welcome to address the Israeli public at Rabin Square – a location that is a symbol of the Israeli Democracy and of our ongoing desire to live a peaceful and normal life,” Huldai wrote.
The big cities aren’t the only ones who want to see Obama up close and personal. A Facebook petition urging him to speak on a mountain top near Nablus, in the West Bank, set up by right-wing activists had 850 likes on Monday evening.
Several universities have also expressed a desire to host Obama, notably including Bar-Ilan University, where Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in 2009 endorsed the two-state solution and set out a vision for Palestinian statehood.