In an interview with Ynet, Shapiro added that, "The president and prime minister spoke a few days after the Israeli elections and both felt that the beginning of a new second term and the beginning of a new Israeli government would be a good time to meet and to really look at the whole common agenda we have in the region and all the common efforts we're making to deal with Iran and prevent Iranian nuclear weapons."
- White House: Obama plans to visit Israel in spring
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Shapiro also said that this is the time, "To deal with the collapse of Syria and the spread of chemical weapons and to work towards the resumption of peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians for a two-state solution.
The US ambassador also said that Obama "Wanted this to be the first visit of his second term and that a date hasn't been exactly set yet, but it will be in the spring and to Israel, the West Bank and Jordan."
Does President Obama intend on putting pressure on the prime minister regarding the Palestinians?
"Renewing the peace process with the Palestinians for a two-state solution continues to be our goal and continues to be Prime Minister Netanyahu's goal. I don't have a specific expectation about that in respect to the visit, this is a part of that effort."
There are those who claim that the news of the visit is intended as a signal to Netanyahu to form a moderate government that can advance a political process.
Shapiro said that the US respects Israel's internal political process and that it will work in conjunction with the new government. The president wouldn't visit prior to the formation of the new government. The advancement of the talks is the agenda of all governments in recent years.
Netanyahu, Obama at the White House (Photo: AFP)
The White House released a statement on Tuesday night saying that Obama will arrive in Israel in the spring and Channel 10 reported that the visit was set for March 20th.
This will be Obama's first visit as president. His previous visit to Israel was in July 2008, when he served as senator and a then-presidential candidate.
Shapiro and Netanyahu (Photo: Amos Ben-Gershom, GPO)
The Reuters news agency published a report by a White House source saying Obama's decision to visit Israel was made during a phone conversation which took place between the American president and Prime Minister Netanyahu on January 28, six days after the 19th Knesset elections.
When asked how the visit is to be perceived based on the strained Obama-Netanyahu relations, Shapiro said that the two have met nine or 10 times, spoke numerous times by phone and have authorized their governments to be in tight cooperation on security issues. There is a very close collaboration between the two countries' intelligence services, and that is a byproduct of their respective leadership.
Regarding the signals the Obama visit will send to Iran and neighboring countries in the region, Shapiro said that this visit sends a message to all countries, friendly or not. If anyone doubted the close ties and the commitment the US has towards Israel, this visit will no longer leave them wondering.
He continued saying that this visit will send a message to the Israeli nation, to neighboring countries and to the American nation regarding the strong and deep connection between the two countries. The mere fact that this is the first visit of the president's second term, sends a clear message.
Obama has been criticized for not having visited Israel. On this, Shapiro said that criticism will exist whether he visits or not. The president is expectant of direct contact with the Israeli public. Obama proved his unprecedented support for Israel in his first term, via assistance with anti-missile defense and intelligence and security-related cooperation.
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