WASHINGTON - US President Barack Obama signed a bill on Friday to
strengthen US-Israeli military ties as he sought to reassure American
Jewish voters of his commitment to the two countries' close alliance on
the eve of a visit to Israel by his Republican rival, Mitt Romney.
used a White House ceremony to announce the United States would soon
provide Israel with an additional $70 million in funding for its
short-range rocket shield known as "Iron Dome," a project strongly
backed by the powerful US pro-Israel lobby.
His focus on
strengthening cooperation with Israel appeared timed to upstage Romney,
who has accused the president of undermining Washington's relationship
with its number one partner in the Middle East.
Olympics-week visit to London has been plagued by diplomatic stumbles,
will travel on Saturday to Israel, a stop his aides hope will resonate
with Jewish voters at home.
He is expected to hold talks on Sunday with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who has had a strained relationship with Obama.
Obama signed the bill at his desk in the Oval Office, he said it
underscored his administration's "unshakeable commitment" to Israel's
security. Congress passed the legislation last week with broad support
from Republicans and Obama's Democrats.
"I have made it a top
priority for my administration to deepen cooperation with Israel across a
whole spectrum of security issues," Obama said in the Oval Office.
was flanked by US Senator Barbara Boxer and Congressman Howard Berman,
the bill's sponsors, and several prominent Jewish leaders, including Lee
Rosenberg, chairman of AIPAC, the leading pro-Israel lobby, and Richard
Stone, chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American
Obama, criticized by some of Israel's US
supporters for being too tough on a close ally, wants to shore up his
support among Jewish voters, who could prove critical in battleground
states like Florida and Pennsylvania in the Nov. 6 election.