It's no secret that the Republican candidate for president of the United States, Mitt Romney, took the trouble to come to Israel at the height of his campaign in the hope of winning support from Jewish voters and donors, as well as from the Christian right. Romney identified President Barack Obama's Israeli weak spot, and came to Jerusalem to demonstrate loyalty to Israel and faith in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. But, as one would expect from a presidential candidate, the visitor refrained from expressing opinions on sensitive areas of disagreement between the two countries, such as the settlements and the diplomatic process.
Given Netanyahu's ideological closeness to the neoconservative movement in the United States, as well as his special relationship with senior members of the Republican Party, it's no wonder that the Obama administration has been eyeing Romney's visit with suspicion. The American media have played up Netanyahu's ties with Jewish American billionaire Sheldon Adelson, owner of the Israeli daily Israel Hayom, who supported Newt Gingrich in the Republican primaries but has now pledged to give $100 million to Romney, the Republican candidate, to deny Obama a second term.
Even though the visitor adhered faithfully to America's political culture, which forbids public criticism of a sitting president's foreign policy outside the borders of the United States, Netanyahu used Romney's visit to send a message about his lack of faith in Obama's Iranian policy of sanctions and diplomacy. Lacking responsibility for America's complex interests in the Middle East, Romney could make do with dispensing smiles and flattery. His campaign staff won't miss an opportunity to show those pictures, and contrast them with the sour expression with which Obama greeted Netanyahu.
If Obama manages to stay in the White House, Romney's visit won't contribute to his confidence in Israel's prime minister. If Romney is elected president, he will presumably follow in the footsteps of previous Republican presidents, who placed American interests ahead of both the ideology of the Jewish right and the policy of the Israeli right. Therefore, Netanyahu must serve Israel's interests by refraining from crude intervention in the American election campaign.
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