Rumors in Washington claim that the expected Republican nominee for president, Mitt Romney, is planning a quick visit to Israel in a few months in order to embarrass President Barack Obama, who has never visited Israel since taking office. According to these rumors, Romney’s staff hope that a visit to Israel, which will win extensive media coverage, will motivate Jewish voters to abandon the Democrats, their traditional political home, in favor of Romney.
The rumors began spreading a few weeks ago, but have picked up and become more credible in an article on Monday in Congressional newspaper “The Hill”, which covers Capitol Hill.
A Jewish Republican activist, who has supported Romney long before he began to lead in the primaries, believes that he will be an excellent president for Israel. He told “Globes”, “Everyone is talking about a possible visit by Romney to Israel in a few months.” He stressed, however, that he is not part of Romney’s election staff, and he cannot therefore confirm whether the visit is anything more than a rumor. “It would be a genius move by Romney,” he said.
The Jewish Republican Coalition, which organizes Jewish donors for the party, declined to respond to questions by “Globes” yesterday whether such a visit was in the cards. Other Republican sources said that a sortie to Israel, which would take off at least four days from Romney’s crowded schedule, would be a very difficult challenge.
“The Hill” quotes Republican legislators as saying that such a trip would highlight the fact that President Obama has not been there during his first term, and that there would be many benefits for Romney should he go to Israel, explaining that it would both advance US-Israeli relations and help him politically.
A Romney visit would have special significance given his longstanding friendship with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, which goes back to when both men worked at Boston Consulting Group in the mid-1970s. During the current campaign, Romney has promised that Israel would be his first foreign trip as president. He has slammed Obama for “throwing Israel under the bus,” and when Netanyahu’s father died two weeks ago, his campaign made a point to send out a public letter extending his condolences.
Obama visited Israel in 2008, when he was running for president, but has not been back since. “The Hill” says that he has been to 30 countries, so far, including Ghana, Ireland and El Salvador. He has also visited Egypt, where he made his famous speech at Cairo University.