Mitt Romney can expect warm Israeli reception

Mitt Romney is visiting Israel as part of a three-nation foreign tour that includes Britain and Poland.

Jerusalem: Mitt Romney`s support for Israel will likely earn the presumptive Republican presidential nominee a warm welcome from Israeli leaders when he visits on Sunday and a frosty reception from Palestinians, who fear he would do little to advance their stalled statehood dreams.

Romney is visiting Israel as part of a three-nation foreign tour that includes Britain and Poland. He hopes will boost his credentials to direct US national security and diplomacy as he campaigns to defeat President Barack Obama in the November general election.

The visit to Israel comes at a time when its leaders are weighing a military attack on Iran, the neighbouring regime in Syria is looking increasingly shaky and Mideast peace talks are going nowhere.

Romney, a longtime friend of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, is expected to play up his critique of President Barack Obama`s posture toward the Jewish state and his handling of Iran`s suspected nuclear weapons ambitions.

Israeli political scientist Abraham Diskin said Romney can expect an "enthusiastic" reception, both because of his solid record of pro-Israel comments and because he`s not Obama.

"What interests Israelis is Israel," Diskin said. "Romney has a very pro-Israel stance. He is very suspicious of the Arab world. (Israelis) are very suspicious of Obama."

In an effort to upstage Romney a day before he landed in Israel, the White House announced it was signing legislation expanding military and civilian cooperation with Israel.

Still, with polls showing a close race, Romney hopes this showcase for his pro-Israel stance will help him to woo votes from among traditionally Democratic Jews and evangelical Christians who zealously defend Israeli government policy.

Obama has not visited Israel since he became president. However, the Gallup polling organisation reported yesterday that Obama`s standing stood at 68 percent among Jews, while 25 percent favoured Romney.

Romney already has stumbled in his first international swing as presidential contender by suggesting that British officials might not be prepared to pull off a successful Olympics.

Romney attended swimming events in London this morning ahead of his planned flight to Tel Aviv.

In Israel, Romney will be meeting with Netanyahu, Defence Minister Ehud Barak, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, President Shimon Peres and Israeli opposition leaders.

He will not see Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Abbas aide Nimr Hamad said, though he will be sitting down with Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad in Jerusalem.


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