Obama Welcomes New Israeli Government
President Barack Obama welcomed the formation of a new government in Israel on Saturday, after Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu met with President Shimon Peres and told him that he has succeeded in putting together a governing coalition.
"The president congratulates the Israeli people, Prime Minister Netanyahu, and the new members of the prime minister's governing coalition on the successful formation of Israel's new government," White House spokesman Jay Carney said in a statement quoted by AFP.
"President Obama looks forward to working closely with the prime minister and the new government to address the many challenges we face and advance our shared interest in peace and security," said Carney.
"The United States places a high value on its deep and enduring bonds with Israel and the Israeli people," the White House statement said.
"The president looks forward to further strengthening those bonds when he travels to Israel next week to meet with Israeli officials and to speak directly with the Israeli people," said the statement.
Obama is set to visit Israel next week, in a milestone visit that will mark his first to the region since taking office more than four years ago.
During the tour, starting Wednesday, Obama will meet with Netanyahu in Jerusalem and Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas and his premier Salam Fayyad in Ramallah to hear their perspective on how to resolve the decades-long conflict.
On Thursday, Obama said in an interview with Israel’s Channel 2 News that his trip is meant to "listen" to both sides and hear their views on how to move forward after over two years without peace talks.
"My goal on this trip is to listen. I intend to meet with Bibi (Netanyahu)... I intend to meet with Fayyad and Abu Mazen (PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas) and to hear from them what is their strategy, what is their vision, where do they think this should go?" said Obama.
"To Abu Mazen, I will say that trying to unilaterally go to, for example, the United Nations, and do an end run around Israel, is not going to be successful," he said.
"To Bibi (Netanyahu) I would suggest to him that he should have an interest in strengthening the moderate leadership inside the Palestinian Authority ...For example, making sure that issues like settlements are viewed through the lens of: Is this making it harder or easier for Palestinian moderates to sit down at the table," added Obama.
"I think we're past the point where we should be even talking about pre-conditions and steps and sequences. Everybody knows what's going to be involved here in setting up two states, side by side living in peace and security," he said.
"How we get into those conversations, whether they can happen soon or whether there needs to be some further work done on the ground, that's part of what I'll explore when I'll get there," he said.