Netanyahu and Palin
Benjamin Netanyahu watches as his wife, Sara, greets Sarah Palin. Photo by Government Press Office
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American politician Sarah Palin stayed out of sight yesterday during her first trip to Israel, dodging paparazzi staking out hotels and holy sites in hopes of getting a glimpse of the former Alaska governor who might run for president.

A visit here has become almost a rite of passage for potential Republican candidates, despite relatively strained relations between the U.S. and Israeli governments. Palin's two-day private visit follows similar stops by former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour and former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, all potential candidates for president in 2012.

Both Barack Obama and John McCain also made stops in Israel ahead of the 2008 presidential election. Obama has not returned since he was elected.

For Palin, the visit is of particular importance, as she has been criticized for lacking experience in foreign policy.

Accompanied by her husband Todd, Palin visited the Western Wall and other religious sites in Jerusalem's Old City and elsewhere. She had a dinner planned with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu yesterday and is to depart today.

"Israel is absolutely beautiful, and it is overwhelming to see and touch the cornerstone of our faith, and I am so grateful to get to be here," Palin told reporters, referring to the role the Temple played in the life of Jesus. "I'm very thankful to know that the Israeli and American link will grow in strength as we seek peace along with you."

For the most part, however, she evaded the waiting press hordes, changing her schedule at the last minute and leaving sites before reporters could catch up with her.