By Julian Pecquet - 02/05/13 06:24 PM EST
President Obama plans to make his first visit to Israel as president in the next couple of months, the White House announced Tuesday. He will also visit Jordan and the West Bank.
“When the president spoke with Prime Minister Netanyahu on January 28, they discussed a visit by the president to Israel in the spring,” National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor told The Hill in a statement.
“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. Additional details about the trip — including the dates of travel — will be released at a later time.”
The visit is seen as evidence that Obama hopes to kick-start the Israeli-Palestinian two-state peace process, which has been moribund for the past three years because of disputes over borders and Israeli settlements.
Secretary of State John Kerry is expected to visit Israel and the West Bank as early as this month.
Obama came under criticism during the presidential election for not visiting the country during his first term. Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush never visited Israel during their presidency, however, and President George W. Bush waited until the last year of his presidency.