Romney vows to visit Israel first if elected

In speech to US Jewish republicans, presidential candidate es expected to criticize Obama's handling of Mideast.

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney 311 (R) (photo credit: REUTERS/Laura Segall)
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney 311 (R)
(photo credit: REUTERS/Laura Segall)
WASHINGTON - Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney will draw a contrast with US President Barack Obama on Middle East policy on Wednesday and promise to bolster US ties with Israel if elected next year.
In remarks to Jewish Republicans, Romney will promise to make a visit to Israel his first foreign trip if he becomes the Republican presidential nominee and goes on to oust Obama from the White House in next November's election.
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Republicans have complained that the Democrat Obama has favored the Palestinians over traditional US ally Israel in the long-running Middle East dispute.
Romney, in a speech to the Republican Jewish Coalition, will say Obama has proposed that Israel adopt "indefensible borders" and had been "timid and weak in the face of the existential threat of a nuclear war."
"These actions have emboldened Palestinian hard-liners who now are poised to form a unity government with terrorist Hamas and feel they can bypass Israel at the bargaining table. President Obama has immeasurably set back the prospect of peace in the Middle East," Romney will say, according to speech excerpts released by his campaign.
The Republican Jewish conference is to hear from all the major Republican candidates seeking the 2012 nomination, including surging Romney rival Newt Gingrich.
A theme throughout the speeches is certain to be the need to strengthen the US commitment to Israel and ensure it remains a democratic bulwark in an unstable region threatened by the possibility of Iran obtaining a nuclear weapon.
"I will travel to Israel on my first foreign trip. I will reaffirm as a vital national interest Israel's existence as a Jewish state. I want the world to know that the bonds between Israel and the United States are unshakable," Romney will say.
Romney will also have strong words for Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, saying he should be indicted for the crime of incitement to genocide under Article III of the Genocide Convention.
"The ayatollahs will not be permitted to obtain nuclear weapons on my watch. A nuclear-armed Iran is not only an Israel problem, it is problem for the United States and all the decent countries of the world," Romney will say.