Romney plays Israel card with talk of upcoming visit (JERUSALEM POST) By HILARY LEILA KRIEGER, JERUSALEM POST CORRESPONDENT 07/04/12)
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WASHINGTON – Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has
significantly upped the ante for the Jewish vote with a planned trip
to Israel, but US President Barack Obama is showing no signs of
A White House official told The Jerusalem Post Tuesday
that “President Obama is not expected to make any more foreign travel
before the election” in November.
The Romney campaign confirmed Monday that the former Massachusetts
governor would soon be making a visit. While no dates have been
given, it is likely that he will stop in Israel as part of a
previously scheduled trip to London for the Olympic Games, which he
is attending because of his role leading the Salt Lake City Olympics
The Post first reported in May that Republican sources said Romney
was planning to visit the Jewish state and meet with Prime Minister
Binyamin Netanyahu, who worked with Romney in the United States when
both were starting out their business careers.
The trip, which is expected to last for two days and include visits
to Israeli landmarks such as the Western Wall and Yad Vashem as well
as some less traditional stopping points, will also feature meetings
with President Shimon Peres, Palestinian Authority Prime Minister
Salam Fayyad, US Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro and Labor
Jonny Daniels, an Israeli Republican political consultant who spoke
to the Post in May about the visit, said that he expects Peres to
raise the subject of Jonathan Pollard, the ailing former US Navy
analyst serving a life sentence for passing secrets to Israel.
Peres made an appeal on Pollard’s behalf during a recent White House
visit with Obama, and Daniels pointed to growing political pressure
from the Orthodox community – the Jewish voting group most likely to
consider backing a Republican – for clemency towards Pollard.
“He and his team are going to have to work very hard at working out
just the right statement on Pollard,” Daniels said.
However the presumptive GOP nominee handles that issue, though,
Daniels predicted a significant boost for Romney’s profile by
“It’s a huge thing that he’s coming here. I think he puts significant
pressure on Obama by coming here,” he said.
“There is a definite perception that the Jewish vote and the pro-
Israel vote are in play this election cycle,” said William Daroff,
Washington director of the Jewish Federations of North America. “By
going to Israel, [former] governor Romney will be highlighting the
fact that President Obama has not been to Israel as president, as
well as emphasizing differences in how Romney says he would work with
Israel generally, and Prime Minister Netanyahu specifically.”
Daroff, who used to work at the Republican Jewish Coalition but now
has a non-partisan position, added that “The visuals and contrasts
from a Romney trip to Israel are important for his campaign’s efforts
with not just the Jewish community, but also the pro-Israel
Evangelical Christian community.”
Obama visited Israel as a presidential candidate in 2008, as did his
opponent in that race, John McCain, but has not returned while in
Steve Rabinowitz, a Jewish Democratic strategist informally advising
the Obama campaign, pointed out that George W. Bush did not visit
until his second term and that Ronald Reagan never did.
“As much as Republicans are fantasizing again – as they do
unsuccessfully every four years at this time – about peeling off a
few Jewish votes, I’m afraid they will come up short yet again this
November,” Rabinowitz said, of a demographic that traditionally
overwhelmingly backs the Democratic party. “President Obama is as
popular – or more – among American Jews as he was a year ago at this
time and as he was during the last election at this time.”
In response to the upcoming trip, Obama campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt
referred to Romney’s recent assertion that he would “do the opposite”
of what the president has when it comes to Israel.
“He must specify how – does that mean he would reverse President
Obama’s policies of sending Israel the largest security assistance
packages in history? Does it mean he would let Israel stand alone at
the United Nations, or that he would stop funding the Iron Dome
system? Does it mean he would abandon the coalition working together
to confront Iran’s nuclear ambitions?” The Romney campaign refused
several requests for comment from the Post Tuesday, but senior aide
Dan Senor appeared on MSNBC Tuesday morning to tout his candidate’s
upcoming trip to Israel.
“It is at the center of the storm. It is right there on the
frontlines of some of the biggest challenges America is dealing with
in the world today geopolitically, namely Iran,” Senor said.
“Governor Romney feels strongly that Israel’s fears and the threats
to Israel are America’s fears and threats to America. The imagery of
locking arms with this ally, this island in a sea of chaos, is a
pretty powerful one.”
This will be his second trip to Israel in the past two years.
Herb Keinon contributed to this report. (© 1995-2011, The Jerusalem
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