Washington: US President Barack Obama would visit Israel in his second term, his top campaign aide has said, while responding to allegations from the Romney campaign that the President not visiting the Jewish state in his first term showed that it was not on his top priority list.
Such a response from the Obama campaign came ahead of the Israel visit of Mitt Romney, the presumptive Republican Presidential nominee.
Romney has hit Obama for not travelling to Israel ever since he was elected as the President in 2008.
Romney has said that Israel would be the first country to visit if he wins the Presidential elections later this November.
"Look, President Obama visited Israel in 2008 as a candidate, just as Romney is doing now. I think we can expect him to visit Israel in the second term, should he be re-elected," Colin Kahl, the former deputy assistant secretary of Defence for the Middle East, said during a conference call yesterday.
"More importantly, being a friend to Israel, at least in our view, shouldn't be judged purely by a travel itinerary. The President has been to Israel multiple times before, but more than that he has backed up his words with deeds.
"I gave the example of him visiting Sderot in 2008, and then as President actually moving forward on funding the iron dome system," he said.
"Look I really think the most important thing is to focus on what President Obama has done whether it be on missile defence or whether it be standing up for Israel at the United Nations or not allowing the Palestinians to short circuit the peace process at the UN.
"I think the administration's support and cooperation for Israel has been unprecedented," he argued.
"It's relevant to point out that Ronald Reagan never visited Israel. George W Bush didn't visit Israel until the final year in office, the final year of his second term.
"And obviously Republicans weren't criticising him for his commitment on Israel as a result of that travel itinerary," Kahl said.
"I don't really think this is a serious policy difference. I think it's basically a distraction.
"It doesn't really say anything on the commitment the Obama administration has had to Israel's security, which Israeli officials acknowledge has been historic and unprecedented," he defended.
Meanwhile, the Romney campaign stepped up its campaign against Obama.
Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell alleged that the US-Israeli relations have been strained by the failure of the Obama administration to stress unequivocal support for the longstanding ally.
"Thus, it's no surprise that President Obama is struggling to shore up support in the Jewish community," he said.
After delivering a speech in Reno, Nevada to the Veterans of Foreign Wars at their annual conference today, Romney will embark on a six-day, full schedule, listening tour to England, Israel and Poland.
Florida Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen said: "Next week, Mitt Romney is traveling to Israel for the fourth time."
"Meanwhile, Barack Obama has yet to visit Israel as President, even as he has found time to visit numerous other countries around the world, including in the Middle East."
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor said Obama's promise to visit Israel in his second term comes four years too late, and is emblematic of the lack of close coordination with Israel Candidate Obama led them to expect in 2008.
"It also does not make up for the many shortcomings of his Middle East policy, ranging from the fact that Iran continues to race forward with its nuclear weapons programme to his administration's haplessness in the face of Syria's support of terrorism, threats to use weapons of mass destruction and support of instability in the region," he said.
"Our relationship with Israel should be a priority, not a distraction. President Obama has found time to visit dozens of other nations including some near to Israel in the Middle East and his treatment of our closest ally in the region has been profoundly disappointing," Cantor said.
"In no region of the world is our country's influence any stronger than it was four years ago. President Obama has failed to restore our economy, is weakening our military with devastating defense cuts, and has diminished our moral authority.
"Governor Romney will restore the pillars of American strength to secure our interests and defend our values," Ryan Williams, Romney Campaign spokesman said.
First Published: Tuesday, July 24, 2012, 10:06