The White House announced last week that the President will make his first official visit to Israel at the end of next month. The abrupt announcement as well as the timing of the visit – following so quickly after the Israeli elections that some worry that a new government will not be able to form in time – have led many to speculate about the reasons behind the trip. Some argue that the visit is an indication that the President will take up the Israeli-Palestinian peace process in earnest, while others vehemently contest that assertion.
Yet, the real impact of the trip may be felt most strongly in the Israeli domestic political scene. Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu has been scrambling to repair his relations with the President after he disastrously interfered with the US elections in November. There is also no question that President Obama’s arrival will certainly complicate the Prime Minister’s attempts to piece together what most commentators agree will be a fragile coalition.
But perhaps that is the point. The President could be hoping to push Netanyahu to form a more centrist government, one that is willing to follow America’s lead in Syria, Iran and on the peace process (though the recent announcement of the approval of 90 new settlements doesn’t make that proposition look too hopeful) . Of course, if that were the case then it would also be an indication that the administration is ready to take a more active role in the region than it has over the past year…
Please note that the views expressed in this piece do not represent the official policy or position of the National Defense University, the Department of Defense, or the U.S. government.