President Obama, seen with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu,… (Carolyn Kaster / Associated…)
WASHINGTON -- President Obama will travel to Israel and the West Bank this month regardless of whether Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been able to form his new government, an aide to the president said Friday.
The White House had previously left open the possibility that Obama might cancel his trip as Netanyahu struggles to assemble a governing coalition in the wake of recent elections.
But White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Friday afternoon that Obama would travel to Jerusalem and Ramallah, regardless, with the intent of expressing his support for Israeli security and for the renewal of peace talks.
"We're going," Earnest said in the daily White House briefing with reporters.
Netanyahu has been unable to form a coalition government in the weeks since the January elections, which his ticket won but with only 31 of the Knesset's 120 seats. Israeli President Shimon Peres last week gave him a two-week extension to keep working on the task.
Earnest said the formation of the new government is "not something that the president would interfere with."
Rather, Obama hopes to reassure Israelis of the U.S. commitment to their security. He hopes to talk about restarting peace talks, Earnest said, but won't arrive with a plan to roll out.
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