With Israeli and Palestinian leaders at odds over how to restart peace talks, President Obama will make his first trip to Israel as president in the coming months, the White House confirmed Tuesday.
Reports in the Israeli press say he will arrive March 20, but White House spokesman Jay Carney would only confirm that the trip would take place this spring.
The president committed to the visit during a phone call with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last week, Mr. Carney said. Details of the trip “will be released at a later time.” he added.
In addition to Israel, the White House will visit the West Bank and Jordan.
Mr. Obama visited Israel as a presidential candidate in 2008, but has not been back since becoming president.
He and Mr. Netanyahu have not always seen eye-to-eye during Mr. Obama’s first term. The two leaders got into a particularly public feud in May 2011 when the prime minister sat alongside Mr. Obama in the Oval Office and angrily denounced any attempt to convince Israel to withdraw its 1967 borders to allow for an adjacent Palestinian state, a move Mr. Obama had suggested in a major speech just the day before.
Days later, Mr. Obama clarified his remarks in a speech to the American-Israeli Public Affairs Committee annual conference, repeatedly arguing that his comments had been misinterpreted and is a “real friend” of Israel.
In his remarks, Mr. Obama agreed that Israel could not go back to the 1967 borders as they were, and that “mutually agreed” land swaps would be necessary. Yet, to the consternation of some at the conference, he continued to suggest that Israel’s actions were creating delays that other nations consider unacceptable.