We have received a lot of reader interest in Sarah Palin’s visit to Israel and her meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, but Palin herself kept the visit low-key, so there isn’t much to say about it. She declined media requests and public appearances, choosing instead to make a quiet and brief visit for her first time. Palin did promise to return for a longer stay the next time:
Former Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin and her husband Todd concluded their brief first visit to Israel on Monday by meeting Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara at his official residence in Jerusalem.
Ahead of the meeting, Netanyahu’s office checked with Palin to see whether they could expand it to a full reception for her with other politicians and aides, but she politely declined.
In an effort to keep her visit as private as possible, Palin also declined all requests for interviews and did her best to avoid the media as she toured the Mount of Olives and Christian sites in Jerusalem on Monday.
McClatchy reports that the Palestinians were “disappointed” when Palin changed her mind about a visit to Bethlehem, apparently at the last minute:
But she skipped a visit the adjacent Al Aqsa Mosque compound, the third holiest site to Muslims, and also cancelled a planned trip to the West Bank town of Bethlehem, one of Christianity’s most revered sites, though it wasn’t clear why.
Her white van was seen driving up to the main checkpoint between Jerusalem and Bethlehem Monday afternoon, but neither she nor her husband, Todd, exited the vehicle or spoke with Israeli soldiers guarding the checkpoint. Her car was stopped just outside the 25-foot wall that runs alongside the checkpoint.
Israeli officials said she hadn’t coordinated her visit with Palestinian authorities, though any person possessing a U.S. passport can enter Bethlehem after showing their identification to the soldiers.
Palestinian officials expressed disappointment that Palin hadn’t visited them, but added they were “not surprised.” They pointed to a controversial post on Palin’s Facebook page last year in which she said, “As Israel makes concessions (and is still criticized by the Obama Administration), Arab leaders are just sitting back waiting for the White House to further pressure Israel. The Obama Administration needs to open its eyes and recognize that it is only Iran and her terrorist allies that benefit from this manufactured Israeli controversy.”
Usually, American politicians court the media with the hope of getting plenty of coverage back home in the US. Instead, the only real news from Palin’s trip was the photos of her with Netanyahu and her decision to keep the trip private, after a very public platform in India.
The private nature of her visit did generate a tempest in a teapot for Netanyahu, with a silly attack from his opposition over the Prime Minister’s welcome to Palin while putting off a meeting with their leader. Jeremy Ben-Ami complained that Netanyahu “has time to host Sarah Palin” while ignoring the representative of “170,000 pro-Israeli, pro-peace supporters.” However, as the leader of the government, it’s Netanyahu’s responsibility to extend hospitality to significant foreign visitors, and Palin only had a short window for her visit. If Ben-Ami aspires to help choose a successor, perhaps he should get a little more perspective on the job first.
Update II: Ben-Ami is not an Israeli, but the president of the left-leaning lobbying group J Street here in the US — which makes this even lamer than first thought. Why did the Jerusalem Post even bother to report Ben-Ami’s criticism?
Update III: Palin disputes the McClatchy report about Bethlehem:
An aide to Sarah Palin says she was not turned away at a checkpoint crossing into Bethlehem this week, as has been widely reported. SarahPAC Treasurer Tim Crawford told POLITICO on Tuesday that “Governor. Palin was never scheduled to go to Bethlehem.”
“They had always planned on viewing Bethlehem from the Separation Wall,” Crawford said of Palin’s visit to Israel with her husband Todd. “They did that, then drove past the checkpoint on the way out.”
“Their guide is not licensed or insured for tours of Bethlehem,” he added.