Obama may postpone Israel visit

"Politico": President Obama's trip to the region is in jeopardy because of the drawn-out coalition negotiations.

In an article entitled "Obama's Israel trip in jeopardy", US website "Politico" says, "Israelis have been waiting for more than four years for a visit from President Barack Obama - but if their leaders cant agree soon on a government, they may have to wait even longer".

A Congressional aide told "Globes", "No one is talking about postponing the visit. The White House has given no signal that Obama is not going. But many people here are asking the obvious question: with whom will he talk if Netanyahu cannot form a government? Will the US president be willing to waste all the promise inherent in his first visit as president on a transition prime minister who may not be the next prime minister? After all, we're not talking about Obama's soul mate."

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has obtained from President Shimon Peres a two-week extension to form a government. If he does not have a coalition by the extension's deadline of March 16, Peres will have to choose between new elections or handing the job of forming a coalition to someone else.

Obama is due to leave for his trip to Israel, the Palestinian Authority, and Jordan on March 19, three days after the expiration of Netanyahu's chance to form a government, and there are no signs of a breakthrough in the negotiations. Netanyahu joked about this in his speech by satellite to AIPAC yesterday, saying, "As you know I was hoping to speak to you in person, but unfortunately, I had to stay in Israel to do something a lot more enjoyable: putting together a coalition government. What fun."

Israel's political deadlock puts Obama in a tricky situation, says "Politico": "risk heading overseas to meet with a leader in political turmoil, or decide to postpone the trip a move that would undoubtedly stir trouble for a president with an already rocky relationship with Netanyahu and heavily scrutinized relationship with the Jewish State."

"Politico" quotes White House press secretary Jay Carney as saying there are no scheduling changes to announce about the status of the trip in light of the uncertainty. But it adds that the State Department is already on record as citing the unsettled state of Israels government as the reason Secretary of State John Kerry skipped a stop there on his first trip abroad, which wraps up this week.

"Given the fact that the government coalition negotiations in Israel are still underway, the Secretary will be traveling there with the president when he visits later in the spring in lieu of making his own separate trip in February to Jerusalem and Ramallah, said State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland at a briefing on February 19. Asked why the Israeli elections precluded a visit even to the Palestinian Authority headquarters in Ramallah, Nuland said, Generally, we go to both when were there, and I think there was a sense that the Israelis are still working on their coalition."

"Politico" adds: "Now, the White House may have to confront whether a reason that was good enough to keep the secretary of state away will be enough to keep the president away too."

Carney said planning for the visit was continuing, but he stopped short of saying the trip would go on even if no governing coalition was formed. The president is looking forward to, very much, his trip to Israel and the region, and were on course planning that trip, he said.

Commenting on Obama's visit in a speech to AIPAC yesterday, Vice President Joe Biden said, "The president.and I have spoken at length about this trip. And I can assure you hes particularly looking forward to having a chance to hear directly from the people of Israel and beyond their political leaders, and particularly the younger generation of Israelis.

"Politico" concluded, "Given the need to move Secret Service personnel, communications equipment and advance staff well before a presidential visit, the White House may need to make a decision on scrubbing the trip even before Netanyahus March 16 deadline."

Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on March 5, 2013

Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2013

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