Obama to visit Israel if he wins second term in White House

By Jennifer Lipman, July 24, 2012
President Obama

President Obama

President Obama will visit Israel if he is elected for four more years.

The pledge was made by his senior aide Colin Kahl in a conversation with journalists on Monday.

"We can expect him to visit Israel in a second term, should he be re-elected," said Mr Kahl, the president's campaign spokesman on the Middle East.

The Obama campaign will be attempting to bolster its credentials on Israel and the Palestinians this week, as Republican rival Mitt Romney visits Israel.

Mr Romney, who will be in London this week for the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games, is due to meet Israeli president Shimon Peres and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem . Mr Netanyahu and Mr Romney have a longstanding friendship, dating back to when they were colleagues at Boston Consulting Group in the 1970s.

Mr Romney has previously accused President Obama of "throwing Israel under a bus" and the Republicans have highlighted their candidate's position on the Middle East as a key distinction between the parties.

President Obama did not visit Israel during his first term, although he did go when he was running for the presidency in 2008.

Eric Cantor, the most senior Jewish Republican and the House m ajority leader, said the president's pledge was too late.

"It is emblematic of the lack of close co - ordination with Israel that C andidate Obama led us to expect in 2008," he said. "It also does not make up for the many shortcomings of his Middle East policy, ranging from the fact that Iran continues to race forward with its nuclear weapons programme to his administration's haplessness in the face of Syria's support of terrorism, threats to use weapons of mass destruction and support of instability in the region."

Democrats dismissed Mr Cantor's comments. "Being a friend of Israel shouldn't be judged by a travel itinerary," said Mr Kahl. "I don't think this is a serious policy difference."

Last updated: 10:20am, July 24 2012