JERUSALEM - Leading US Republican Sarah Palin began a private visit to Israel on Sunday, her first to the Jewish state, and planned to meet Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and tour holy sites.

Palin, a 2008 vice presidential candidate, is a potential White House contender in 2012 and a leading light in the fiscally conservative Tea Party movement.

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"As the world confronts sweeping changes and new realities, I look forward to meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu to discuss the key issues facing his country, our ally Israel," Palin, who flew in from India, said in a statement on her website.

Israeli media described her trip as a bid to show support for Israel, whose standing is strong among US voters, and gain more experience in international affairs ahead of a possible presidential run.

Palin, who is keeping her supporters guessing on whether she will run for the presidency, made no comment to reporters on arrival at Tel Aviv's Ben-Gurion airport for the two-day visit.

The former Alaska governor has used lucrative television, book and speaker deals to emerge as one of her party's biggest stars since running as the 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee. During that campaign she was criticised for a lack of foreign policy expertise.

Palin was scheduled to have dinner with Netanyahu and his wife on Monday after visiting holy sites in Jerusalem, including the Western Wall.

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