How Obama 'beat' Romney to Israel ... with a White House signing ceremony
The Romney and Obama campaigns both say their guy is the better friend of Israel, which may explain the White House signing of a security cooperation act just before Romney visits.
In what might be called a preemptive strike, President Obama chose to hold a White House ceremony signing into law the US-Israel Enhanced Security Cooperation Act on Friday – two days before Republican challenger Mitt Romney visits the Jewish state.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
Governor Romney will sit down with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other Israeli leaders on Sunday, as part of his efforts to juxtapose his own high regard for Israel with what he says has been Mr. Obama’s “shabby treatment” of America’s closest Middle East ally.
Romney’s objective: to cut into the whopping 78 percent of the Jewish vote that Mr. Obama won in 2008, while firming up his own luke-warm support among some evangelical Christians who have questioned his passion for Israel.
IN PICTURES: On the Campaign Trail with Mitt Romney
But by highlighting his administration’s commitment to Israel’s security only hours before Romney arrives in Jerusalem, Obama is signaling that he plans to cede no ground when it comes to Israel and the debate over how his administration has treated it.
What the battle suggests is that, among foreign policy issues, Israel is an emotion-laden topic that both campaigns believe they can turn to their advantage – and that means this week’s tit-for-tat over Israel is likely to be only the beginning.
Both Obama and Romney speak of America’s unshakable friendship with Israel: Obama claiming that no president has done more for Israel’s security than he has, Romney insisting the president has downgraded the two nations’ close links, in particular by not visiting Israel once during his three-plus years in office.
But the one-upmanship over Israel has heated up recently among campaign surrogates – in part because Romney, who on Wednesday commenced a seven-day international trip, committed to silencing his criticisms of the president while overseas.
After Vice President Joe Biden said this week that Obama “has done more for Israel’s security than any president since Harry Truman,” former US Ambassador to the UN John Bolton called Mr. Biden’s statement “ridiculous” – and offered his own superlative.
“This is the most hostile president since the state of Israel was created,” Ambassador Bolton said on Fox News.
The sparring over Israel – and the administration’s record on it – spilled over into a foreign policy “discussion” the Brookings Institution held in Washington on Wednesday with representatives of the two campaigns.
Rich Williamson, a senior Romney foreign policy and defense adviser who served in the George W. Bush administration, skirted the evidence of Obama’s security commitment to Israel by zeroing in on what he called a lack of close ties, saying “political cooperation has not existed.”