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Obama congratulates Netanyahu on new government

US president, due here Wednesday, ‘looks forward to working closely’ with Israeli leadership to ‘advance shared interest in peace’

Yifa Yaakov is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

US President Barack Obama (photo credit: AP/Carolyn Kaster)
US President Barack Obama (photo credit: AP/Carolyn Kaster)

US President Barack Obama on Saturday congratulated Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has assembled a coalition for what will be his third term in office, on forming a government.

Earlier Saturday, Netanyahu confirmed to President Shimon Peres that he had managed to muster a majority coalition. Peres charged him with the task on February 2, in the wake of the January 22 elections, and gave him a two-week extension four weeks later, making Saturday the final day of Netanyahu’s maximal six-week allocation.

“President Obama looks forward to working closely with the prime minister and the new government,” said White House spokesman Jay Carney in a statement.

He added that Washington would strive, together with Jerusalem, “to address the many challenges we face and advance our shared interest in peace and security.”

Obama arrives in Jerusalem on Wednesday for his first trip to Israel as president. His first priority will be resetting his oft-troubled relationship with Netanyahu — though he said in an interview broadcast Thursday that they have “terrific, businesslike” ties — and evaluating the new coalition government that the Israeli prime minister laboriously cobbled together.

The US president also will look to boost his appeal to a skeptical Israeli public, as well as to frustrated Palestinians.

Obama has described the visit as one in which he will be “listening” rather than seeking to impose policies. High on the agenda will be thwarting Iran’s nuclear drive, grappling with Syria’s instability, and looking for ways to restart Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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