US presidential candidate Mitt Romney arrived in Israel on Saturday night on the
second leg of a three-country tour that began in London, where he badly annoyed
his hosts by questioning whether the city was ready for the Olympics.
tour to England, Israel and Poland is largely meant to build up the foreign
policy credentials of the candidate, who has served one term as governor of
Massachusetts and has little foreign policy experience.
While in Britain,
Romney said in an interview with NBC that London’s preparations for the games
This led to disparaging counter-remarks about him
by Prime Minister David Cameron and London Mayor Boris Johnson, and a flood of
Romney’s visit to Israel – his fourth – is widely
considered an effort to woo pro-Israel voters in the US, both Jews and
Evangelical Christians, many of whom are discontent with the Middle East
policies of President Barack Obama.
Obama, as well as Sen. John McCain,
the Republican presidential candidate in 2008, both visited Israel in July of
that year just a few months before the elections.
One thing Romney is
sure to underline – in an effort to contrast himself with Obama – is his cordial
ties with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. He is scheduled to meet with
Netanyahu on Sunday morning and again later in the day after the Tisha Be’av
fast when he and his wife, Ann, will dine at the Prime Minister’s Residence with
Netanyahu and his wife, Sara.
In between those two meetings Romney will
also meet with President Shimon Peres, Labor leader Shelly Yechimovich, Kadima
leader Shaul Mofaz and Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam
He is also scheduled to give a foreign policy address during the
late afternoon in Jerusalem, with a pooled press covering the event. Adding to
the sense that Israel is a background prop for the campaign is the fact that
Romney will also sit for an ABC interview from Israel.
Romney are not scheduled to hold any significant joint public appearances, with
the prime minister very keen on not being perceived in any way as intervening in
the US elections.
The media will be limited to a photo-op before their
Sunday morning meeting.
Over the past few months, the prime minister has
downplayed the perception that emerged following a New York Times article in
April that the two men were close friends. The article, which to some read as a
warning to readers that Romney was somehow “in Netanyahu’s pocket,”
characterized their ties as a “warm relationship, little known to
Netanyahu immediately poured cold water on that depiction and
in an April interview with CNN said that after working at the same consulting
firm with Romney in Boston 35 years ago he did not meet him again until many
years later when he was finance minister and Romney was governor of
Asked whether Romney was his friend and whether he “likes
him,” Netanyahu replied, “Well, look, here’s an answer that will – should
satisfy you. I respect Mitt Romney as I respect Barack Obama, the president of
the United States. And that’s the end of the ranking and the questions that you
will undoubtedly try again and again to draw me into.”
refused to be pulled into the issue of his relationship with Romney last Sunday
during interviews on two US networks.
Romney is slated to leave for
Poland at about noon on Monday.
Before taking off, he is scheduled to
host a fund-raiser at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem on Monday morning. The
event was moved from Sunday evening to Monday morning so as not to conflict with
Tisha Be’av. The cost to attend the event, where Romney is expected to appear
for 45 minutes, is $50,000 a couple.