Jerusalem — Iran’s nuclear ambitions, the civil war in Syria and stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts will top the agenda of U.S. President Barack Obama’s visit to Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday.
“It is a very important visit that will emphasise the strong alliance between Israel and the United States,” Netanyahu, who has had a testy relationship with Obama, told his cabinet.
The White House announced on Tuesday that Obama plans to visit Israel, the West Bank and Jordan this spring, raising prospects of a new U.S. push to restart Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts frozen for the past two years.
The White House gave no exact dates for the trip, Obama’s first to Israel since taking office. Israel’s Channel 10 television station cited unnamed sources in Washington last week saying the visit to Israel would start on March 20.
In public remarks at the cabinet session, Netanyahu put Iran at the top of his list of talking points with Obama and referred only in general terms to peace efforts with the Palestinians, stopping short of setting a revival of bilateral negotiations as a specific goal of the visit.
“The president and I spoke about this visit and agreed that we would discuss three main issues … Iran’s attempt to arm itself with nuclear weapons, the unstable situation in Syria … and the efforts to advance the diplomatic process of peace between the Palestinians and us,” Netanyahu said.
U.S.-hosted negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians collapsed in September 2010 in a dispute over Israeli settlement-building in the occupied West Bank, land captured in a 1967 war and which Palestinians seek as part of a future state that includes Gaza and East Jerusalem.
Obama and Netanyahu discussed the coming trip in a Jan. 28 telephone call.