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Republican Mitt Romney Visits Israel on Presidential Campaign: Talks Iran, Syria with Netanyahu

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Published on Jul 30, 2012

The latest US election polls put Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney neck and neck with President Obama in the race for the White House. That may make Romney's visit here in Israel all the more important. In a tight election, swing states like Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania, often determine the outcome and those are places where Jews live and vote. With polls showing President Obama has lost some of his support from Jewish voters, Romney is here to try to send a message that he would be a stronger and more loyal friend to the State of Israel.

Romney began his visit at the Prime Minister's office, sitting down with Benjamin Netanyahu. The two first met in the 1970s when they both worked at the Boston Consulting Group. It was not until much later -- around 2006 -- that the two re-connected through politics. A top Romney aide told JN1 news the two have developed a strong friendship and see many issues eye to eye. His willingness to take a tougher stand on Iran than President Obama is the message Romney wants to send to US Jewish voters and Israelis...how tough? A senior Romney aide said that if Israel has to take action on its own against Iran, the governor would respect that. Supporting an Israeli strike on Iran stands in contrast to President Obama's reported attempts to dissuade Israel from any action...

Netanyahu praised Romney's position on Iran... Netanyahu believes a credible threat of military action must be coupled with sanctions in order to stop Iran. It's no secret that Israel doesn't believe President Obama has succeeded in creating a "credible" threat of military action... Netanyahu and Romney reportedly discussed the political upheavals in Syria and Egypt as well as the peace process...those subjects came up again with Israeli President Shimon Peres and Defense Minister Ehud Barak. On the peace process, a top aide told JN1 News that Romney doesn't believe Israel has a partner for peace right now on the Palestinian side. Romney did not schedule a meeting with Palestinian President Machmoud Abbas, but did meet with top leader Salaam Fayyad.

Romney famously said during the primaries that President Obama had quote "thrown Israel under the bus:...skipping over Jerusalem on his way to Cairo, missteps in the peace process, public criticism of Israel and going soft on Iran have been Romney and other's criticism's of Obama. The sitting President defends his commitment to Israel saying his administration has made unprecedented contributions to the country's security...while Romney was on his diplomatic trip, Obama signed new legislation strengthening cooperation and adding another $70 million dollars in defense aid.

The question is whether the Israeli visit will pay off for Romney with Jewish voters in the US... Romeny's aides say he only needs to get a few important percentage points of the Jewish votes in key swing states like Florida and Ohio to help him tip the balance in his favor. But one has to wonder if the economy and not Israel will determine the vote for or against Romney... If you're wondering how Israelis see Mitt Romney, you may be surprised by a recent poll from the Begin-Sadat Center at Tel Aviv University. When asked who would better promote Israel's interests Obama or Romney, 29% of Israelis said Romney while only 22% said Obama...a whooping 49% said they weren't sure...Romney has no record of legislation on Israel and yet he beat the sitting President. That also tells you how little trust Israelis seem to have in President Obama.

Jordana Miller, JN1, Jerusalem.

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