Arriving in Israel, Mitt Romney eyes Jewish votes ahead of U.S. elections
Romney to meet with Netanyahu, Barak, Lieberman, Peres, and Israeli opposition leaders in Jerusalem.
Three months before the presidential elections, and in the midst of an aggressive campaign against President Barak Obama, Republican hopeful Mitt Romney arrived in Israel hoping to swerve Jewish voters to support his candidacy.
Romney's campaign is based on a vigorous attack on Obama's attitude concerning Israel, with an eye on Jewish voters in swing states, such as Florida.
Meanwhile these efforts have fallen rather flat: according to a recent Gallup poll, 68 percent of American Jews still support Obama, compared to 72-74 percent four years ago.
Still, Romney can probably count on the support of his host in Jerusalem, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Aaron Miller, who served in the Clinton administration, wrote a few days ago in Foreign Policy, that when Netanyahu will blow out the candles on his birthday cake, two weeks before the elections, he will wish for a decisive Romney victory.
Obama and his campaign managers are doing their best to check Romney's criticism, claiming that as opposed to the Republican candidate, the administration's deeds, not words, strengthen the alliance with Israel.
During the weekend, Obama signed a bill to increase security cooperation with
Defense Minister Ehud Barak was quick to publicly thank the president, but
Netanyahu kept his silence. Only in respond to Haaretz's query, Netanyahu's office said that "the prime minister thanks the U.S. administration and is expected to send a thank you note to the president."
Netanyahu vehemently denies that he is interfering in U.S. politics, but as he himself is fond of saying: if it walks and quacks like a duck, it's a duck. Netanyahu's close associates, such as his political advisor Ron Dermer, are firm supporters of the Republicans. Some of Netanyahu's strongest backers - Casino magnate, Sheldon Adelson for one - are among Romney's campaign largest donors.
The U.S. media has reported several times that Adelson has pledged to donate no less than $100 million to Romney's campaign to oust Obama. The New York Times reported that Adelson will visit Israel at the same time as Romney, and one can assume that the two will find time to meet.
Romney visit will last slightly longer than 24 hours, but he will be well received by Netanyahu, who will do his best to make the visit politically successful. The two will meet in the morning at the prime minister's office, and briefly meet the press, before meeting again in the evening for dinner at the prime minister's residence with their wives.
One small anecdote can reflect the importance Netanyahu attaches to the visit's success. Until a week ago, Romney was planning to hold, in the very same evening a fundraising event at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem. But then he was told that the event was due to begin before the end of the Tisha B'Av fast, commemorating the destruction of both temples.
Romney and his team found themselves in an embarrassing situation. At first they postponed the beginning of the dinner until after sunset, but that still wasn't enough to quell the criticism. The prime minister's office came to their rescue offering a solution - instead of a fundraising event, Romney and his wife will join the Netanyahus for an after-fast dinner. Netanyahu, by the way, has no intention of fasting, but his office said that in such a symbolic evening he could explain to Romney the dangers facing Israel. The fundraising event, incidentally, costing some $50,000 will still take place, but only on Monday morning.
The blog of Haaretz's diplomatic correspondent, taking a deeper look behind the scenes of Israeli politics and foreign policy.