President Obama's Chief of Staff Mixes Business and Pleasure in Israel

While in Israel to celebrate his son's bar mitzvah, President Obama's Chief of Staff will meet Wednesday with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for what the White House is calling an "informal discussion of a range of issues in the U.S.-Israel bilateral relationship." A White House spokesman also says Rahm Emanuel and his family will visit with Israeli President Shimon Peres on Thursday.

Emanuel's visit stirred up controversy in Israel earlier this month when it was reported in the Jerusalem press that he and his son would visit the Western Wall, one of the holiest sites in the country to pray, as part of his son's religious ceremony which marks a Jewish boy's passage to manhood at the age of 13. Leaders of the Jewish National Front, who oppose President Obama's decision to ask Israeli leaders to halt Jewish settlements in the West Bank, said they would disrupt the celebration to protest current U.S. policies against their country.

A spokesman for the far-right political party likens the White House Chief of Staff to the Palestinian terrorist group "Hamas" and considers Emanuel  Mr. Obama's point-person on Israeli decisions. According to the Jerusalem Post, "reporters, photographers and at least one would-be protester camped out at the Western Wall," only to be disappointed when the Emanuel clan failed to show.

Emanuel, whose father was born in Jerusalem, served in the Israel Defense Forces during the first Gulf War as a civilian volunteer.