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Obama’s itinerary suggests that his administration may be preparing a new Middle East peace push. Word of the coming trip followed calls by incoming U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry to Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Sunday stressing the U.S. commitment to peacemaking.
Obama’s early efforts to broker Israeli-Palestinian peace talks fell apart amid mutual acrimony in 2010, followed by accelerated Israeli housing construction in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem - land the Palestinians claim for a future state.
Obama was reluctant to pressure Netanyahu during the 2012 U.S. election campaign for fear of undercutting support among Jewish voters and other pro-Israel constituencies. Now that he no longer faces re-election constraints, he may be ready to take a tougher tack despite the likelihood of drawing fire from Republicans who have questioned his commitment to Israel.
Israel’s Channel 10 said Obama’s visit would focus on restarting peace talks with the Palestinians, but White House officials would not confirm that.
Also expected to be high on the agenda would be Obama’s efforts to convince Netanyahu to hold off on any attack on Iran’s nuclear sites.
Obama’s tensions with Netanyahu have been aggravated by Netanyahu’s demands for U.S. “red lines” on Iran’s nuclear program.