Obama to visit Israel for first time as president

Obama in Israel
Posted at 7:50 PM, Feb 05, 2013
and last updated 2013-02-05 19:50:00-05

WASHINGTON (AP) — An upcoming trip to Israel could help boost President Barack Obama's image there. It will be his first visit as president to a country where many don't view him as a friend of the Jewish state. No date has been announced, but Israeli TV says the trip will take place in late March.

Obama visited Israel while running for president in 2008, but his failure to return there as president has prompted criticism from some pro-Israel groups.

The White House says Obama will also visit the West Bank and Jordan during his trip.

Obama had a rocky relationship with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during his first term. The Israeli leader is currently trying to build a governing coalition that would allow him to remain prime minister.

A spokesman says Obama will be looking to "reaffirm the deep and enduring bonds" between the two countries, while discussing how to deal with issues including Iran and Syria.

There's no reaction from the Israeli prime minister's office. But a senior official with the Palestine Liberation Organization, Hanan Ashrawi, says the visit is important, considering Obama's expressed interest in playing a role in Mideast peace efforts. She says she hopes it's "more than just a symbolic visit."