World News Brief, Thursday March 21

Obama makes first presidential trip to Israel; hackers cause network failures in South Korea; Chinese bloggers flood Russia's embassy with nationalist microblogs; NATO reaches agreement with Afghan government over withdrawal from Wardak province; more hunger strikers at Guantanamo; and more

Top of the Agenda: Obama Arrives in Israel Amid Low Expectations

President Obama arrived in Israel on Wednesday for his first trip (WaPo) there as president, kicking off a three-day visit that observers say is mostly symbolic and will unlikely catalyze any new initiatives on the Palestinian peace process. Obama is due to hold talks with Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu, then travel to the occupied West Bank on Thursday to meet Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. While the U.S. president spoke of an "unbreakable bond" (Haaretz) upon landing in Tel Aviv, the president's relationship with Netanyahu has been strained, and analysts say the focus of the trip may be more centered around the threat posed by Iran (Reuters) and the war in Syria.


"The president has made clear that he is not carrying a peace plan, nor does he intend to launch a high-profile peace initiative when he is in Israel. That is the right posture for this trip. There is a new Israeli government and the groundwork has not been laid. The last thing that is needed now is a grand gesture that is an instant flop," writes Samuel Berger for Foreign Policy.

"He's coming to help convince the Israeli people that he actually is a friend of Israel. That said, there are issues to discuss with the Israeli government, and there are three key issues that he wants to talk about with the Israelis. First and foremost is Iran; second are the developments in Syria; and third are the traditional issues of peace with the Palestinians," says CFR's Robert Danin.

"The visiting president has no solutions. His visit will not bring about the end of the occupation, the dismantling of settlements, the establishment of an independent Palestinian state on the West Bank, or even the destruction of the Iranian nuclear program. He will seek to restrain the prime minister on two fronts: To prevent an Israeli attack on Iran and accelerated construction in the settlements," writes Aluf Benn for Haaretz.



South Korea Suffers Cyberattacks

South Korea said hackers caused massive computer network failures (Yonhap) at several major TV stations and banks Wednesday, but did not specify whether North Korea was involved. Pyongyang on Wednesday also released a propaganda video depicting the White House under attack.

CHINA: Chinese bloggers flooded Russia's embassy microblogs with nationalist (SCMP) comments demanding the return of territories ahead of President Xi Jinping's visit to Moscow this week.



NATO and Afghan government reach agreement over US withdrawl from Wardak

Hunger strikers grow in number at Guantanamo


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