US President Barack Obama will travel to Israel this month even if Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has not completed the job of forming his new coalition, the White House said Friday.
"We're going," White House spokesman Joshua Earnest said, when asked to comment on media speculation that the prolonged horse-trading following Israel's elections could cause him to delay the trip.
"The formation of the Israeli government is the responsibility of Prime Minister Netanyahu and other senior officials in the Israeli government," Earnest said.
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"That is not something that the president would interfere with.
"The president is primarily going on this trip to accomplish a couple of things -- he is very interested in talking to the Israeli people.
"We are also operating at a time when the region, Israel's neighborhood if you will, is undergoing a pretty severe transition.
"It is important for the people of Israel to understand that the American people stand with them in that time of crisis and that we are going to be there to protect them."
Obama is due to travel to Israel at the end of the month on the first trip of his second term, which also includes visits to the West Bank and Jordan.