Obama Congratulates Israelis on Government Days Before Trip

U.S. President Barack Obama congratulated Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on the formation of a new government and will use next week’s trip to Israel for “further strengthening” of the bonds between the countries, according to the White House.

“President Obama looks forward to working closely with the Prime Minister and the new government to address the many challenges we face and advance our shared interest in peace and security,” White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said today in a statement.

Netanyahu’s Likud party signed coalition agreements with two other factions today that will enable him to form a new government just before Obama’s arrival. That government, comprised of Likud, Yisrael Beitenu, Yesh Atid and Hatenuah, will hold 68 seats in Israel’s 120-member parliament, the Knesset.

The new government probably will be officially sworn in by Peres on March 18, Likud party spokeswoman Noga Rappaport said. Obama departs March 19 for a four-day trip to the Middle East with stops in Israel, the West Bank and Jordan.

Obama’s visit to Israel will be his first since he took office in 2009, though he made a similar trip as a candidate for president in 2008. Obama is scheduled to meet with Netanyahu.

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