Obama to visit Israel in spring
President Obama is planning to visit Israel this spring, the White House confirmed to Al Monitor Tuesday.
“When the President spoke with Prime Minister Netanyahu on January 28, they discussed a visit by the President to Israel in the spring,” NSC spokesman Tommy Vietor said by email Tuesday, in response to a query.
“The start of the President’s second term and the formation of a new Israeli government offer the opportunity to reaffirm the deep and enduring bonds between the United States and Israel and to discuss the way forward on a broad range of issues of mutual concern, including Iran and Syria,” Vietor said. “Additional details about the trip – including the dates of travel – will be released at a later time.”
Obama will also travel to the West Bank and Jordan.
Israel’s Channel 10 reported Tuesday that President Obama is planning to travel to Israel on March 20th. But the White House would not confirm his planned travel dates.
Israeli sources told Al-Monitor that President Obama initiated the plan for the Israel trip, early in his and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s new terms. “It reflects a priority,” a former Israeli official surmised.
It also offers a chance to visit before serious new tensions arise in the alliance, including over timelines for diplomacy with Iran. It also offers perhaps something of a fresh start in relations between the two leaders that has often been tense, even as US-Israeli security cooperation expanded to unprecedented levels.
Earlier, Israeli media reported that Netanyahu does not plan to travel to Washington for the AIPAC conference in early March, in part because his new government may not be seated yet.
Though Obama traveled to Israel during his 2008 presidential campaign, the visit will mark his first to the Jewish state since being elected president. While some aides advocated for an Israel trip in Obama’s first term, crises continually beset the Obama-Netanyahu relationship, including over settlement building and later Israeli demands for Obama to publicly announce his Iran red lines, and it became increasingly untenable to find the right moment.
This trip seems to be being scheduled early in the second term in part to occur before the next big such row erupts, if it’s not possible to head off entirely. President Obama may also seek to persuade Netanyahu to give more time for diplomacy with Iran. European diplomats said Tuesday Iran had agreed to resume nuclear negotiations with six world powers in Kazakhstan on February 26th.