President Obama to visit Israel and 'reaffirm deep bonds'

By Jennifer Lipman, February 6, 2013
Barack Obama (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Barack Obama (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Israelis preparing for Pesach next month could find their attention turned to a visitor other than Elijah, following President Obama's announcement that he is to make an official visit in the spring.

It will be the first trip to the country since he went as a candidate five years ago, and will form part of a regional tour, with stops in Jordan and the West Bank.

The White House described the visit, which Israeli media reported had been set for around March 20 , although this has not been confirmed, as an "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."

The trip is expected to be the first foreign visit since the president was sworn in for a second term of office, and will be an early challenge for the Israeli governmental coalition that is taking shape now.

Before the president's arrival, new Secretary of State John Kerry is expected to visit Israel very soon, suggesting that finding a resolution to the current stalemate in the peace process is a priority for the Obama administration.

During his campaign against Mitt Romney, an Obama aide told journalists that the president had pledged to visit the Jewish state if he were re-elected. The comments were made as Mr Romney met Israeli president Shimon Peres and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem.

Last updated: 9:48am, February 6 2013