Obama will visit Israel in second term if re-elected
July 23, 2012 5 Comments
By Lauren Appelbaum, Political Director
Washington, July 23 – President Obama’s campaign says he will travel to Israel during his second term, if re-elected.
“We can expect him to visit Israel in a second term should he be elected,” Colin Kahl, the former deputy assistant secretary of defense for the Middle East, said on a conference call with reporters Monday.
Obama’s last visit to Israel was during the summer of 2008 when he was the Democratic candidate for president.
Kahl said George W. Bush did not visit Israel until the final year of his second term and Ronald Reagan never visited Israel during his presidency.
“Obviously you didn’t hear Republicans complaining then as a result of that travel itinerary,” Kahl said. “I don’t think this is a really serious policy difference. It’s basically a distraction.”
Kahl did not offer an explanation for why Obama has not visited Israel as president. Yet he said Romney’s criticism of Obama for not visiting isn’t valid and that the U.S.-Israel relationship is “in good shape.”
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor criticized Obama, saying his promise to visit Israel in his second term “comes four years too late” and is “emblematic of the lack of close coordination with Israel Candidate Obama led us to expect in 2008.”
“Our relationship with Israel should be a priority, not a distraction,” Cantor said in a statement released by the Romney campaign. “President Obama has found time to visit dozens of other nations – including some near to Israel in the Middle East – and his treatment of our closest ally in the region has been profoundly disappointing.”
In another release by the Romney campaign, Florida Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen said the timing of Obama’s announcement to visit Israel during his second term is “politically inspired.”
“One should not play political games with U.S. foreign policy, particularly at a moment when the Middle East is a tinderbox,” Ros-Lehtinen said in the statement.
Mitt Romney will be visiting Israel during a trip set to begin later this week. The presumptive Republican nominee will be meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, President Shimon Peres and Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad. Romney also has said that if he is elected president, his inaugural foreign visit would be to Israel.
“If I’m president of the United States, my first trip — my first foreign trip will be to Israel to show the world we care about that country and that region,” Romney said during a GOP debate last November in Washington, D.C.
The Romney campaign has called this trip one for the former governor to listen and learn, not to announce foreign policy specifics.