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Romney heading to Israel as race against Obama heats up

    The Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney will visit Israel in the coming weeks to meet Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

    The two first met in 1976 when they both worked for The Boston Consulting Group, and have remained friendly since.

    Mr Romney is also expected to meet the Palestinian Prime Minister, Salam Fayyad, as well as Israel's President and the leaders of the opposition Labour Party in Jerusalem, and the American ambassador Daniel Shapiro.

    Foreign visits are often used by presidential nominees to bolster their diplomatic and foreign policy credentials. In Mr Romney's case, commentators have suggested that this is another attempt at convincing Jewish voters who are disillusioned with the Democrats.

    His fourth visit to the Jewish state may also help cement his as standing among America's Evangelical Christians, a key constituency for the November vote.

    Historically, the majority of American Jews have supported the Democratic Party. In 2008, Obama gained 78 per cent of the Jewish vote. But the Romney campaign is hoping to capitalise on disappointment with Obama among Jewish voters, particularly over the president's stance on settlement expansion. In the past, Mr Romney has accused Obama of throwing Israel "under the bus", and suggested should he be elected, his policy towards the Jewish state would be to "do the opposite" of Obama.

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