WASHINGTON (CBSDC) — Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney is taking aim at the international stage as he plans to visit Israel at the end of the month.
Romney has heavily criticized President Barack Obama’s lukewarm relationship with the Jewish state and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during his campaign.
During a speech to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee in March, Romney said the White House “has distanced itself from Israel and visibly warmed to the Palestinian cause.”
“It has emboldened the Palestinians,” Romney said, according to CBS News. “They are convinced that they can do better at the U.N. – and better with America – than they can at the bargaining table with Israel.”
Obama’s relationship with Netanyahu originally soured over the development of Israeli settlements in the West Bank and the rumored threats of Israel bombing potential Iranian nuclear sites.
Romney is looking to capitalize on this tepid relationship, especially since the former Massachusetts governor and the Israeli prime minister have been friends since the 1970s when both were working for the Boston Consulting Group.
Matt Brooks, executive director of the Republican Jewish Coalition, told CBSDC that Romney is making a statement to Obama as to how important an ally Israel is to the U.S.
“I think it will send a message that Gov. Romney is very different than President Obama as it relates to Israel and his policies,” Brooks told CBSDC. “Romney says he will do the opposite as it relates to Israel. We will see and hear a very different vision and come away very clearly with the comfort when Mitt Romney says he has Israel’s back. Unlike President Obama, he does have Israel’s back.”
Obama visited Israel in 2008 during his campaign, but has yet to go back as president.
Netanyahu’s senior adviser told The New York Times that Israel is looking forward to Romney’s visit.
“He’s a strong friend of Israel and we’ll be happy to meet with him,” Ron Dermer told the Times. “We value strong bipartisan support for Israel and we’re sure it will only deepen that.”
Brooks doesn’t believe Romney will receive an endorsement from Netanyahu, but it will be important for the former Massachusetts governor to show he can carry himself well overseas.
“I think it will be very helpful for him to show the American electorate that he has an understanding to carry himself on the international stage,” Brooks told CBSDC.
Larry Sabato, director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia, believes Netanyahu will have to walk a fine line by not playing favorites between Obama and Romney.
“It’s no secret that Bibi and Barack are not close,” Sabato told CBSDC. “But I doubt Netanyahu would come right out and endorse Romney. He’ll say some nice things, no doubt, and Romney supporters will tout it.”
Sabato added that Romney is highlighting an “Obama weakness” by traveling to Israel.
Obama even admitted to his own shortcomings with Israel and the Palestinians.
During an interview with WJLA-TV, the president cited the lack of movement for a peace process.
“I have not been able to move the peace process forward in the Middle East the way I wanted,” Obama told WJLA.
The Mideast has become a political hotbed with the Muslim Brotherhood rising to political power in Egypt, the bloodshed in Syria between rebels and President Bashar Assad’s forces, and Iran’s intentions of moving forward with developing nuclear power.
Despite the problems Obama has had with Israel, it should not affect the U.S. Jewish vote. During the 2008 election, Obama received 78 percent of the Jewish vote.
Romney will also reportedly be meeting with Israeli President Shimon Peres and Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad. This will be Romney’s fourth trip to Israel.