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Jerusalem — The visit will take place only after Netanyahu puts together a new governing coalition following his narrower-than-expected victory in Israel’s Jan. 22 election.
Netanyahu, who heads the right-wing Likud party, has begun talks with prospective political partners and still has up to five weeks to complete the process.
Citing the dangers Israel faces from the “earthquake that is happening around us”, a reference to Arab upheaval in the region and the prospect of a nuclear-armed Iran, Netanyahu said Obama’s visit now was particularly important.
Obama’s tensions with Netanyahu have been aggravated by the Israeli leader’s demands for U.S. “red lines” on Iran’s nuclear programme - something the president has resisted, though he has said military options are on the table if sanctions and diplomacy fail.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Sunday that Tehran would not negotiate about its nuclear programme under pressure, and would talk to its adversaries only if they stopped “pointing the gun”.
Iran dismisses Western suspicions that its nuclear programme is aimed at building weapons. Israel is widely believed to have the Middle East’s only nuclear arsenal.
Netanyahu has insisted he will stick to the red line laid down in September, when he told the United Nations that Iran should not have enough enriched uranium to make even a single warhead.
He gave a rough deadline of summer 2013, and Israeli political commentators have speculated that Obama had opted to visit Israel before that date to caution Netanyahu against any go-it-alone attack against Iran’s nuclear facilities.
Obama visited Israel as a presidential candidate in 2008 but drew Republican criticism for not travelling there in his first term. His Republican predecessor, former President George W. Bush, also waited until his second term to go to Israel.