Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney arrived in Israel on Saturday, for as part of his three-nation foreign tour that includes Britain and Poland.
The visit to Israel comes at a time when its leaders are weighing a military attack on Iran, the neighboring regime in Syria is looking increasingly shaky and Mideast peace talks are going nowhere.
Romney, a longtime friend of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, is expected to play up his critique of President Barack Obama’s posture toward Israel and his handling of Iran’s suspected nuclear weapons ambitions.
In an effort to upstage Romney a day before he landed in Israel, the White House announced it was signing legislation expanding military and civilian cooperation with Israel.
Still, with polls showing a close race, Romney hopes this showcase for his pro-Israel stance will help him to woo votes from traditionally Democratic Jewish voters and evangelical Christians who zealously defend Israeli government policy. Obama has not visited Israel since he became president.
Romney already has stumbled in his first international swing as presidential contender by suggesting that British officials might not be prepared to pull off a successful Olympics. In an interview with NBC News, he called London’s problems with games preparation “disconcerting,” and the remark sparked sharp responses from Britain’s top officials. Romney attended swimming events in London on Saturday morning ahead of his planned flight to Tel Aviv.
In Israel, Romney will be meeting with Netanyahu, Defense Minister Ehud Barak, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, President Shimon Peres and Israeli opposition leaders.