Obama to sign Israel security bill on eve of Romney visit (REUTERS) Writing by Matt Spetalnick, additional reporting by Andrea Shalal-Esa; Editing by Eric Beech WASHINGTON 07/26/12 10:24pm EDT)
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(Reuters) - President Barack Obama will sign a bill to strengthen
U.S.-Israeli military cooperation on Friday on the eve of a visit to
Israel by his Republican presidential challenger, Mitt Romney.
Obama will seek to stress his commitment to Israel´s security for
American Jewish voters at a White House ceremony that appeared timed
to upstage Romney, who has accused the president of undermining U.S.-
Congress passed the legislation, the U.S.-Israel Enhanced Security
Cooperation Act, with broad support from Obama´s Democrats and
Republicans last week.
"The bill deepens our security cooperation with Israel by expanding
our military assistance and providing Israel with access to
additional equipment," White House spokesman Tommy Vietor said on
Obama, criticized by some of Israel´s U.S. supporters for being too
tough on a close ally, wants to shore up his support among Jewish
voters, who could prove critical in battleground states like Florida
and Pennsylvania in the November 6 election.
Obama received 78 percent of the Jewish vote in the 2008 election,
but a nationwide Gallup poll in June showed him down to 64 percent
backing versus Romney´s 29 percent.
Romney hopes his trip to Israel will resonate with Jewish voters at
home. He will arrive there from London on Saturday and plans to meet
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has had a strained
relationship with Obama.
Obama angered many Israelis and their U.S. supporters last year when
he insisted any negotiations on the borders of a future Palestinian
state begin on the basis of lines that existed before Israel captured
the West Bank and Gaza Strip in a 1967 war.
Obama visited Israel as a candidate in the 2008 campaign but has not
done so as president. He has insisted security ties with Israel have
never been stronger, though he has pressed Netanyahu to hold off on
any attack on Iran´s nuclear sites to give diplomacy and sanctions
more time to work.
Romney has accused Obama of being too hard on Israel and not strong
enough with Iran.
The new bill calls for enhanced cooperation with Israel - the
staunchest U.S. ally in the Middle East and a major beneficiary of
military aid - on missile defense and intelligence, and increased
access to advanced weapons. (© Thomson Reuters 2012. 07/26/12)
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