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White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel visits Israel for son's bar mitzvah celebration

JERUSALEM (AP) — President Barack Obama's chief of staff, who has stirred anger among Israeli hard-liners, is visiting Israel to celebrate his son's bar mitzvah, but those hoping to catch a glimpse of him Monday during a rumored visit to a Jerusalem holy site were disappointed.

Rahm Emanuel and his family did not appear at the Western Wall, where reporters, photographers and at least one would-be protester were camped out. There was speculation the family might have chosen a less public venue because of possible protests.

Emanuel, who is on a private visit, has not announced plans for where and when his son's coming of age ceremony would take place.

Some hard-line Israelis see Emanuel as the leader of the Obama administration's push to stop construction in Israel's West Bank settlements — an issue that has complicated Washington's efforts to restart peace talks.

Itamar Ben-Gvir, a well-known extremist, said he was ready to protest if Emanuel and his son showed up at the Western Wall in the Old City of Jerusalem.

"We think this is a man who cannot be welcomed with respect and love," Ben-Gvir said. "I don't have a problem with his father or with his son, but he has proven that he is an enemy of the state of Israel."

Despite his view, many Israelis appeared to be receiving Emanuel warmly.

His son Zach, turning 13, is the center of the bar mitzvah celebrations. Part of the ceremony, laying phylacteries, or small ritual boxes with biblical verses inside, is often performed at the Western Wall, a remnant of the biblical Temple compound that is the holiest place where Jews can pray.

Emanuel's father was born in Jerusalem and was a member of one of the pre-state underground militant organizations fighting against British rule and usually associated with Israeli hard-liners.

Israeli officials refused to comment on Emanuel's trip, since it is a private visit, though he is expected to meet Israeli leaders.