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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.

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Not only has Obama not visited Israel as president, he said, but he reminded the audience that Biden had shown “disrespect” for Israel when he delayed his arrival at a March 2010 dinner meeting at Mr. Netanyahu’s residence to protest an announcement of new settlement construction.

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“The vice president of the United States kept the Israeli head of state [sic] waiting 90 minutes for dinner because he was having a temper tantrum,” Mr. Williamson said. “You don’t treat any head of state that way, let alone your friend.” [As prime minister, Netanyahu is head of government.]

In response, Michele Flournoy, a former under secretary of Defense for policy and now co-chair of the Obama campaign’s national security advisory committee, said it is more important to look at what Obama has done for Israel – for example, the Iron Dome anti-missile system to protect from incoming rockets from Gaza – than whether or not he has traveled there.

“When you judge a president’s commitment to Israel, you have to look beyond the itinerary,” Ms. Flournoy said, noting that Ronald Reagan never visited Israel and that George W. Bush only visited as president in his second term.

Any discussion of Israel sooner or later leads to the topic of Iran and its nuclear program – and on that topic the two camps are just as hotly divided.

Bolton scoffs at administration claims that Obama has been good for Israel’s security, countering that the president’s focus on “dialogue” with Tehran has allowed the Iranian program to advance and thus to increase the danger not just to Israel’s security, but the world’s.

At Brookings, Flournoy said the administration’s Iran diplomacy had resulted in “the toughest sanctions ever on Iran,” but she also noted that Obama has repeatedly warned Iran that all options remain on the table if diplomacy does not curtail what the West believes is its march toward the bomb.

As for the military option, Flournoy said, “Pentagon planning for this is incredibly robust. It’s there.”

Romney is certain to discuss all of these issues while in Israel, but given his pledge, any criticism of Obama will at most come behind closed doors.

That will hold true for Netanyahu as well, who – despite his longtime personal friendship with Romney – would be loath to openly criticize a US president, especially one who might be around for another four years.

To paint a harmonious picture of Obama-Israel relations, Flournoy cited Netanyahu and other Israeli leaders praising the president’s commitment to Israel. Not giving an inch, Williamson said reading a list of quotes showed “the defensiveness of the administration” on the topic of Israel.

Despite undeniable tensions between Obama and Netanyahu, analysts in both countries say the working relationship between the two is better than what might meet the eye. Netanyahu has repeatedly spoken of how he called on Obama last year when Israeli citizens were under threat at their country’s consulate in Cairo – and Obama got on it with Egyptian leaders and resolved the problem.

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