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White House Says Obama Will Visit Israel This Spring

President Obama will make his first presidential visit to Israel this spring, the White House announced this afternoon.

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney did not give an indication of date, but he said that Obama will also visit the West Bank and Jordan during the trip.

As The Washington Post points out, the trip comes at a time when Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations have stalled. The Post reports:

"[Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu's office said that he and Obama 'spoke about a visit by the President to Israel after a new government is formed in Israel, and the two agreed that such a visit would be an important opportunity to emphasize the friendship and strong partnership between Israel and the United States.'

"Netanyahu's Likud Party emerged from the recent national elections as the largest bloc in Israel's parliament, meaning he will serve another term as prime minister. But a surprisingly strong showing by a new centrist party that – at least in principle – supports the creation of a Palestinian state alongside Israel has revived hopes for fresh negotiations and will likely put more pressure on Netanyahu to pursue such talks."

During the presidential campaign, Republicans criticized Obama for failing to visit Israel.

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