The White House may be trying to steal the thunder from Republican candidate Mitt Romney on the eve of his visit to Jerusalem. A day before Romney is due to land in Israel, U.S. President Barack Obama will sign the United States-Israel Enhanced Security Cooperation Act, which is meant to approve and expand military cooperation between the two countries.
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The act, which Congress passed a week ago, will be signed by the U.S. president at a White House ceremony on Friday.
The republican candidate for the U.S. president will arrive in Israel on Saturday afternoon and will meet in Jerusalem with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, President Shimon Peres, and the Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad.
Romney will visit the Western Wall, and will also give a speech about foreign policy and Israel-U.S. relations.
In the evening, Romney and his wife Ann will visit the Prime Minister's residence in Jerusalem, for an evening meal with Netanyahu and his wife, Sara. On Monday morning, before he travels on to Poland, Romney will carry out a fundraising event in the King David Hotel in Jerusalem. Entry to the event will cost $50,000 per participant.
According to an Israeli official, the White House decided to carry out the signing ceremony of the United States-Israel Enhanced Security Cooperation Act as a counterweight to Romney's visit to Israel, and the criticism that Romney has expressed of the Obama's relationship to Israel in general, and to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in particular, over the past three years.
An Israeli official said that U.S. Jewish leaders and a long list of Democratic and Republican congress members and senators have been invited to the signing ceremony of the act, which will take place in the White House.
Obama is interested in highlighting, through the signing of the act, the unprecedented upgrade of Israel-U.S. security cooperation during his term, the Israeli official said.
Obama and Romney are currently fighting over the votes of Jewish Americans. Jewish votes in a number of key states, such as Florida, are likely to influence the final result of the upcoming elections, and the fact that Obama did not visit Israel during his first term, and his shaky relationship with Netanyahu, are serving the Republicans in elections and campaign broadcasts to gain the votes of the Jewish community.
Romney's elections campaign has published a number of U.S. media articles in the past months in order to emphasize the friendly relations between Romney and Netanyahu. Romney's visit to Israel is also meant to resonate with Jewish voters.
Romney's visit to Israel is a great worry for Obama's election campaign. Evidence of this was a conference call with reporters organized by a number of senior members of Obama's campaign team. One of them, Colin Kahl, who served until a few months ago as an assistant to the Secretary of Defense, he pledged that Obama would come to Israel if elected for a second term.
The law for the expansion of United States-Israel Enhanced Security Cooperation Act was passed in Congress on July 17, and was widely supported by Republicans and Democrats. The act extended by two years – until the end of 2014 – the funding provided by the U.S. government for placing emergency U.S. arms caches in warehouses on Israeli territory in case of war.
The law also states that Congress calls on the U.S. government to increase joint military exercises with the IDF, to provide Israel with more aid in developing defense system against rockets, and to provide Israel with advanced weapons such as refueling aircrafts and high-accuracy ammunition.
The law also stipulates that the U.S. will assist Israel to prepare in security terms for the U.S. pullout from Iraq.
Another stipulation is that the administration will offer Israel more options for training the Israel Air Force in U.S. airspace, as well the expansion of intelligence cooperation with Israel, including in the field of spy satellites.