The Obama campaign said in a conference call Monday that the president is likely to make his first visit to Israel in a second term, and denounced attempts by Mitt Romney's campaign to make political hay out of his failure to do so up to this point.
The call comes ahead of Romney's planned foreign policy tour this week, during which the former Massachusetts governor is expected to visit London, Israel, Poland and Germany. It is likely that Romney will use his time in Poland to criticize Obama's "reset" with Russia, which has worried some key eastern European allies, and his time in Israel to underscore the lingering anxiety many strong Israel supporters feel about the sincerity of Obama's loyalty.
"Being friend to Israel shouldn't be judged just by a travel itinerary," said Colin Kahl, a former defense official speaking on behalf of the Obama campaign. "It's relevant to point out that Ronald Reagan never visited Israel, and George W. Bush never visited Israel until the final year of his second term. So I don't really think this is a serious policy difference, it's basically a distraction, says nothing about the commitment the Obama administration has made to Israel."
Kahl added that voters "should expect [Obama] to visit Israel in the second term."
The Romney campaign has high hopes of winning over chunks of normally Democratic Jewish voters, many of whom perceive Obama as insufficiently supportive of the Middle Eastern ally.
Over the course of the call, Kahl argued that these attempts were bound to fail, and offered a litany of examples of how the White House's support for Israel has been "unprecedented." The campaign also trotted out several quotes from top Israeli officials describing the relationship as strong as ever. But some, like a reference to a speech by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at last year's AIPAC convention, which was largely an attack on Obama's Iran policy, may actually understate the level of personal distrust and tension that has come to characterize the relationship over the past four years.
The campaign call was set up largely to criticize Romney's upcoming world tour as superficial, contrasting it with a 2008 campaign trip by then-Senator Obama that saw him meeting with world leaders in international hotspots like Iraq, Afghanistan, Israel and several countries in Europe.
"The question for Governor Romney is whether this trip will be similarly substantive and meet the bar set in 2008, or whether it will be one long photo-op and fundraising tour," said Robert Gibbs, a senior campaign adviser.
The Romney campaign has been tight-lipped about the precise details of the trip, but on Monday the British prime minister's office confirmed that the governor would at least be meeting with David Cameron, likely followed by sessions with several other political leaders.
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