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Rahm Emanuel in Israel for son's bar mitzvah; may meet with Israeli officials

Sunday morning update…..Ma’ariv is reporting that Emanuel and his entourage traveled from Eilat to Jordan, en route to Petra.

WASHINGTON — White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel is in Israel to celebrate the bar mitzvah of his son and a nephew. While there, he might meet with Israeli government officials, the White House told me Saturday night.

His brothers, Ezekiel, a White house health policy advisor, and Ari, a Hollywood superagent, will also be in Israel for the ceremony. Ezekiel Emanuel told me the trip was a “family affair.”

Tommy Vietor, an assistant press secretary, said Emanuel “is in Israel for his son’s bar mitzvah. He may have some meetings with Israeli government officials.”

YDNet news, an Israeli outlet, said Rahm Emanuel arrived over the weekend and traveled to Eilat, a city in a popular resort area. YDNet also said he could meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The bar mitzvah for Zach Emanuel — which the Jerusalem Post said would likely be at the Western Wall — has been tracked by the Israeli press because of Emanuel’s prominence and his Israeli background: His father, Benjamin, who lives in Wilmette, was born in Israel. There is also ongoing speculation about his exact role in shaping President Obama’s policy toward Israel.

U.S.-Israeli relations have been strained at times. The Israelis object to White House pressure over Israeli settlements in the West Bank. Tensions increased in March when Vice President Joe Biden was in Israel and was confronted with a surprise announcement about building new housing in Jerusalem. George Mitchell, Obama’s Mideast envoy was just in the region for a round of “indirect” peace talks; Mitchell met with Netanyahu last week.

The Jerusalem Post last week recalled that Emanuel, during an appearance last Nov. 10 at the General Assembly of the Jewish Federations of North America told the group “This Memorial break, I am taking my son, my nephew Noah with Ari my brother, so they can have their bar mitzva in Israel.”