Jewish Brief July 31, 2012: Romney Tours Site of Future Polish Jewish Museum



Romney tours site of future Polish Jewish museum

Source: JTA, 7-31-12

Mitt Romney toured the site of the future Museum of the History of Polish Jews in Warsaw….READ MORE

Israel Political Brief July 31, 2012: Obama Administration: Mitt Romney’s Recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s Capital Contradicts US Policy



White House: Romney’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital contradicts U.S. policy

Source: JTA, 7-31-12

A White House spokesman noted that Mitt Romney’s calling Jerusalem the “capital of Israel” contradicts United States policy over several successive administrations….READ MORE

Israel Political Brief July 31, 2012: Knesset Members Urge Mitt Romney to Release Jonathan Pollard



Knesset members urge Romney to release Pollard

Source: JTA, 7-31-12

Knesset leaders have sent a letter to Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney urging him to grant clemency to Jonathan Pollard if elected president….READ MORE

Israel Political Brief July 30, 2012: Republicans Likelier Than Democrats to Favor PM Benjamin Netanyahu, Gallup Poll Shows



Republicans likelier than Democrats to favor Bibi, Gallup poll shows

Source: JTA, 7-30-12

Republicans are twice as likely as Democrats to view Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu favorably, and President Obama’s Jewish support remains steady, according to polling by Gallup….READ MORE

Israel Political Brief July 30, 2012: Government Approves Massive Tax Hikes, Spending Cuts



Gov’t Approves Massive Tax Hikes, Spending Cuts

The government on Monday passed a sweeping measure to tighten Israel’s belt at a time when the world is facing another financial crisis.

Source: Israel National News, 7-30-12

Netanyahu at Cabinet meeting.

Netanyahu at Cabinet meeting.
Flash 90

The government on Monday passed a sweeping measure to tighten Israel’s belt at a time when the world is facing another global financial crisis.

With a vote of 20 to 9, the Cabinet approved a package of austerity measures designed to raise some NIS 14.15 billion within a year, and reduce the budget deficit by 1.5 percent. Voting against the package were the  Independence and Shas parties, as well as Likud Social Services Minister Moshe Kahlon.

The measures include raising taxes, increasing fines and cutting budgets….READ MORE

Israel Brief July 29, 2012: Reports of ‘Provocations’ Spur Tisha b’Av Closing of Temple Mount to Jews



Reports of ‘provocations’ spur Tisha b’Av closing of Temple Mount to Jews

Source: JTA, 7-29-12

Reports that Jewish extremists would create “provocations” spurred Jerusalem police to close the Temple Mount to Jewish visitors on Tisha b’Av….READ MORE

Israel Political Brief July 29, 2012: Romney in Jerusalem affirms strong Israel-U.S. alliance



Romney in Jerusalem affirms strong Israel-U.S. alliance

Source: JTA, 7-29-12

Mitt Romney in Jerusalem affirmed the strong alliance between the United States and Israel….READ MORE

Full Text Israel Political Brief July 29, 2012: Remarks by PM Netanyahu and Former Governor Mitt Romney, Republican Nominee for President of the United States During Romney’s Visit to Israel



Remarks by PM Netanyahu and Former Governor Mitt Romney, Republican Nominee for President of the United States

Source: PMO, 7-29-12

PM Netanyahu:  Governor Romney, Mitt, it’s a pleasure to welcome you here.  I have to say that I heard some of your remarks a few days ago – you said that the greatest danger facing the world is of the Ayatollah regime possessing nuclear weapons capability.  Mitt, I couldn’t agree with you more, and I think it’s important to do everything in our power to prevent the Ayatollahs from possessing the capability.  We have to be honest and say that all the sanctions and diplomacy so far have not set back the Iranian program by one iota.  And that’s why I believe that we need a strong and credible military threat, coupled with the sanctions, to have a chance to change that situation.

We’re going to discuss all these issues and the turbulent region that the Middle East has now become in our talks.  I want you to know that in this great convulsion, there is one stable, democratic ally of the United States here in the Middle East, and that’s Israel; and that’s why I think that strengthening the relationship between America and Israel is in the interest of peace, in the interest of both our countries, and I believe that your visit is an expression of that desire on both of our peoples.  So, I welcome you here on behalf of the State of Israel, the champion of democracy in the Middle East, as a representative of the United States, the greatest champion of freedom in the world.

Welcome to Jerusalem.

Romney:  Thank you so much.  Thank you, Mr. Prime Minister.  It’s an honor to be with you today.  We do have a friendship which spans the years, and at a critical time like this, I come to learn of your perspectives and your ideas with regards to the challenges faced in the region and challenges faced around the world.  I’m honored to be here on the day of Tisha B’Av, to recognize the solemnity of the day and also the suffering of the Jewish people over the centuries and the millennia, and come with recognition of the sacrifices of so many.  Unfortunately, the tragedies of wanton killing are not only things of the past, but have darkened our skies in even more recent times.

Your perspectives with regards to Iran and its effort to become a nuclear-capable nation are ones which I take with great seriousness and look forward to chatting with you about further actions that we can take to dissuade Iran from their nuclear folly.  Your perspectives also with regards to the developments throughout the region – in Syria, Egypt and other nations – will be most helpful.

We have a relationship between our nations which spans many years, and at the same time, is one based not just upon mutual interests, but also shared values.  Like Israel, we share a commitment to democracy, to freedom of speech, to freedom of association, to the preservation of human rights; and these common values and common principles have caused our nations to draw closer over the years.  And as we face the challenges of an Iran seeking nuclear capability, we must draw upon our interests and our values to take them on a different course and to assure that people recognize throughout the world that the United States and Israel are bound in our commitments to one another.

So thank you.  I appreciate the chance to be with you for our discussion and also a chance to enjoy a meal together, breaking the fast for your family at the end of the day, and look forward to a productive day.  Thank you.

Full Text Israel Political Brief July 29, 2012: Mitt Romney’s Speech to the Jerusalem Foundation on Israel’s Right to Defend itself From Nuclear Iran in Jerusalem, Israel



Remarks To The Jerusalem Foundation

Source: Mitt Romney, 7-29-12


Mitt Romney today delivered remarks to the Jerusalem Foundation in Jerusalem, Israel. The following remarks were prepared for delivery:

Thank you for that kind introduction, Mayor Barkat, and thank you all for that warm welcome.  It’s a pleasure and a privilege to be in Israel again.

To step foot into Israel is to step foot into a nation that began with an ancient promise made in this land. The Jewish people persisted through one of the most monstrous crimes in human history, and now this nation has come to take its place among the most impressive democracies on earth. Israel’s achievements are a wonder of the modern world.

These achievements are a tribute to the resilience of the Israeli people.  You have managed, against all odds, time and again throughout your history, to persevere, to rise up, and to emerge stronger.

The historian Paul Johnson, writing on the 50th anniversary of the creation of the Jewish state, said that over the course of Israel’s life, 100 completely new independent states had come into existence. “Israel is the only one whose creation can fairly be called a miracle,” Johnson wrote.

It is a deeply moving experience to be in Jerusalem, the capital of Israel.

Our two nations are separated by more than 5,000 miles. But for an American abroad, you can’t get much closer to the ideals and convictions of my own country than you do in Israel.  We’re part of the great fellowship of democracies.  We speak the same language of freedom and justice, and the right of every person to live in peace.  We serve the same cause and provoke the same hatreds in the same enemies of civilization.

It is my firm conviction that the security of Israel is in the vital national security interest of the United States. And ours is an alliance based not only on shared interests but also on enduring shared values.

In those shared values, one of the strongest voices is that of your prime minister, my friend Benjamin Netanyahu.  I met with him earlier this morning and I look forward to my family joining his this evening as they observe the close of this fast day of Tisha B’Av.

It’s remarkable to consider how much adversity, over so great a span of time, is recalled by just one day on the calendar.  This is a day of remembrance and mourning, but like other such occasions, it also calls forth clarity and resolve.

At this time, we also remember the 11 Israeli athletes and coaches who were massacred at the Munich Olympics forty years ago. Ten years ago this week, 9 Israeli and American students were murdered in the terrorist attack at Hebrew University. And tragedies like these are not reserved to the past. They are a constant reminder of the reality of hate, and the will with which it is executed upon the innocent.

It was Menachem Begin who said this about the Ninth of the month of Av:  “We remember that day,” he said, “and now have the responsibility to make sure that never again will our independence be destroyed and never again will the Jew become homeless or defenseless.” “This,” Prime Minister Begin added, “is the crux of the problems facing us in the future.”

So it is today, as Israel faces enemies who deny past crimes against the Jewish people and seek to commit new ones.

When Iran’s leaders deny the Holocaust or speak of wiping this nation off the map, only the naïve – or worse – will dismiss it as an excess of rhetoric.  Make no mistake: the ayatollahs in Tehran are testing our moral defenses.  They want to know who will object, and who will look the other way.

My message to the people of Israel and the leaders of Iran is one and the same: I will not look away; and neither will my country. As Prime Minister Begin put it, in vivid and haunting words, “if an enemy of [the Jewish] people says he seeks to destroy us, believe him.”

We have seen the horrors of history.  We will not stand by.  We will not watch them play out again.

It would be foolish not to take Iran’s leaders at their word. They are, after all, the product of a radical theocracy.

Over the years Iran has amassed a bloody and brutal record. It has seized embassies, targeted diplomats, and killed its own people. It supports the ruthless Assad regime in Syria. They have provided weapons that have killed American soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq. It has plotted to assassinate diplomats on American soil.  It is Iran that is the leading state sponsor of terrorism and the most destabilizing nation in the world.

We have a solemn duty and a moral imperative to deny Iran’s leaders the means to follow through on their malevolent intentions.

We should stand with all who would join our effort to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran – and that includes Iranian dissidents. Do not erase from your memory the scenes from three years ago, when that regime brought death to its own people as they rose up. The threat we face does not come from the Iranian people, but from the regime that oppresses them.

Five years ago, at the Herzliya Conference, I stated my view that Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons capability presents an intolerable threat to Israel, to America, and to the world.

That threat has only become worse.

Now as then, the regime’s claims that it seeks to enrich nuclear material for peaceful purposes are belied by years of malign deceptions.

Now as then, the conduct of Iran’s leaders gives us no reason to trust them with nuclear material.

But today, the regime in Iran is five years closer to developing nuclear weapons capability.  Preventing that outcome must be our highest national security priority.

I want to pause on this last point. It is sometimes said that those who are the most committed to stopping the Iranian regime from securing nuclear weapons are reckless and provocative and inviting war.

The opposite is true. We are the true peacemakers. History teaches with force and clarity that when the world’s most despotic regimes secure the world’s most destructive weapons, peace often gives way to oppression, to violence, or to devastating war.

We must not delude ourselves into thinking that containment is an option. We must lead the effort to prevent Iran from building and possessing nuclear weapons capability. We should employ any and all measures to dissuade the Iranian regime from its nuclear course, and it is our fervent hope that diplomatic and economic measures will do so. In the final analysis, of course, no option should be excluded. We recognize Israel’s right to defend itself, and that it is right for America to stand with you.

These are some of the principles I first outlined five years ago. What was timely then has become urgent today.

Let me turn from Iran to other nations in the Middle East, where we have seen rising tumult and chaos. To the north, Syria is on the brink of a civil war.  The dictator in Damascus, no friend to Israel and no friend to America, slaughters his own people as he desperately clings to power.

Your other neighbor to the north, Lebanon, is under the growing and dangerous influence of Hezbollah.

After a year of upheaval and unrest, Egypt now has an Islamist President, chosen in a democratic election. Hopefully, this new government understands that one true measure of democracy is how those elected by the majority respect the rights of those in the minority.  The international community must use its considerable influence to ensure that the new government honors the peace agreement with Israel that was signed by the government of Anwar Sadat.

As you know only too well, since Hamas took control of the Gaza Strip in 2007, thousands of rockets have rained on Israeli homes and cities.  I have walked on the streets of Sderot, and honor the resolve of its people. And now, new attacks have been launched from the Sinai Peninsula.

With Hezbollah rockets aimed at Israel from the north, and Hamas rockets aimed from the south, with much of the Middle East in tumult, and with Iran bent on nuclear arms, America’s vocal and demonstrated commitment to the defense of Israel is even more critical. Whenever the security of Israel is most in doubt, America’s commitment to Israel must be most secure.

When the decision was before him in 1948, President Harry Truman decided without hesitation that the United States would be the first country to recognize the State of Israel.  From that moment to this, we have been the most natural of allies, but our alliance runs deeper than the designs of strategy or the weighing of interests.

The story of how America – a nation still so new to the world by the standards of this ancient region – rose up to become the dear friend of the people of Israel is among the finest and most hopeful in our nation’s history.

Different as our paths have been, we see the same qualities in one another. Israel and America are in many respects reflections of one another.

We both believe in democracy, in the right of every people to select their leaders and choose their nation’s course.

We both believe in the rule of law, knowing that in its absence, willful men may incline to oppress the weak.

We both believe that our rights are universal, granted not by government but by our Creator.

We both believe in free enterprise, because it is the only economic system that has lifted people from poverty, created a large and enduring middle class, and inaugurated incomparable achievements and human flourishing.

As someone who has spent most of his life in business, I am particularly impressed with Israel’s cutting edge technologies and thriving economy.  We recognize yours as the “start-up nation” – and the evidence is all around us.

You have embraced economic liberty.  You export technology, not tyranny or terrorism.  And today, your innovators and entrepreneurs have made the desert bloom and have made for a better world.  The citizens of our countries are fortunate to share in the rewards of economic freedom and in the creativity of our entrepreneurs. What you have built here, with your own hands, is a tribute to your people, and a model for others.

Finally, we both believe in freedom of expression, because we are confident in our ideas and in the ability of men and women to think for themselves.  We do not fear open debate. If you want to hear some very sharp criticisms of Israel and its policies, you don’t have to cross any borders.  All you have to do is walk down the street and into a café, where you’ll hear people reasoning, arguing, and speaking their mind. Or pick up an Israeli newspaper – you’ll find some of the toughest criticism of Israel you’ll read anywhere. Your nation, like ours, is stronger for this energetic exchange of ideas and opinions.

That is the way it is in a free society. There are many millions of people in the Middle East who would cherish the opportunity to do the same.  These decent men and women desire nothing more than to live in peace and freedom and to have the opportunity to not only choose their government but to criticize it openly, without fear of repression or repercussion.

I believe that those who oppose these fundamental rights are on the wrong side of history. But history’s march can be ponderous and painfully slow. We have a duty to speed and shape history by being unapologetic ambassadors for the values we share.

The United States and Israel have shown that we can build strong economies and strong militaries. But we must also build strong arguments that advance our values and promote peace. We must work together to change hearts and awaken minds through the power of freedom, free enterprise and human rights.

I believe that the enduring alliance between the State of Israel and the United States of America is more than a strategic alliance: it is a force for good in the world. America’s support of Israel should make every American proud. We should not allow the inevitable complexities of modern geopolitics to obscure fundamental touchstones. No country or organization or individual should ever doubt this basic truth:  A free and strong America will always stand with a free and strong Israel.

And standing by Israel does not mean with military and intelligence cooperation alone.

We cannot stand silent as those who seek to undermine Israel, voice their criticisms.  And we certainly should not join in that criticism. Diplomatic distance in public between our nations emboldens Israel’s adversaries.

By history and by conviction, our two countries are bound together.  No individual, no nation, no world organization, will pry us apart. And as long as we stay together and stand together, there is no threat we cannot overcome and very little that we cannot achieve.

Thank you all.  May God bless America, and may He bless and protect the Nation of Israel.

Israel Brief July 29, 2012: Rockets Fired From Gaza Hit Israel



Rockets fired from Gaza hit Israel

Source: JTA, 7-29-12

Six Kassam rockets from Gaza hit the western Negev over the weekend….READ MORE

Israel Brief July 27, 2012: IDF Fighter, Tanker Jets Forced to Make Emergency Landing



Fighter, tanker jets forced to make emergency landing

Source: JTA, 7-27-12

An Israeli F-16A jet fighter was forced to make an emergency landing after an airborne refueling exercise….READ MORE

Israel Advocacy News July 26, 2012: Emergency Committee for Israel Raps Obama, J Street Hits Romney in Ads



Emergency Committee for Israel raps Obama, J Street hits Romney in ads

Source: JTA, 7-26-12
Liberal and conservative pro-Israel advocacy groups released ads targeting the presidential candidates….READ MORE

Israel Political Brief July 26, 2012: Ehud Barak: Preemptive Strike Would be Less Costly Than Nuclear Iran



Barak: Strike would be less costly than nuclear Iran

Source: JTA, 7-26-12

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said that a preemptive military strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities would be less costly for Israel than Iran’s possession of a nuclear weapon….READ MORE

Israel Political Brief July 26, 2012: Defense Minister Ehud Barak: We’ll Have to Make Decisions on Nuclear Iran



Barak: We’ll Have to Make Decisions on Iran

Defense Minister Ehud Barak: Nuclear Iran would lead to a nuclear arms race throughout the Middle East.

Source: Israel National News, 7-26-12

Ehud Barak
Ehud Barak
Flash 90

Defense Minister Ehud Barak said on Wednesday that Israel will soon need to reach decisions regarding Iran.

Speaking during a graduation ceremony at the National Security College, Barak said, “The State of Israel is facing some of the most complex challenges which its security and political leadership has ever had to face.

“We may be required to make difficult decisions concerning the national security of Israel and ensuring its future,” he said. “The whole region around us has been turbulent and noisy for almost two years, instability is increasing and security challenges grew each day. The events of the Arab Spring which gradually became an Islamic Summer teach us that in the ultimate test we can rely only on ourselves.

“I am well aware of and know the difficulties and complexities involved in thwarting Iran’s achievement of nuclear weapons,” said Barak. “However, I know beyond a doubt that dealing with the challenge itself would be infinitely more complex, infinitely more dangerous and far more expensive in terms of both human lives as well as resources.”

Barak stressed that “A nuclear Iran is a threat to international order. It will lead to an arms race throughout the Middle East.”

Regarding Syria, the defense minister said, “We are closely following the developments in Syria. We said and we mean it that the State of Israel cannot accept the transfer of advanced weapons systems from Syria to Hizbullah. A massacre and murder of citizens by government forces is going on Syria as the entire world watches.

“Bashar Assad has lost his legitimacy to rule. It seems that every day that passes brings the end of the current regime closer. The difficulty of the international community in formulating a response to present bloodshed and death of innocents can be a lesson for us and illustrate the limitations of the ability of the international community to mobilize political will, unity of purpose and ability to function even when the situation requires it.”…READ MORE

Israel Political Brief July 25, 2012: PM Benjamin Netanyahu Meets With Turkish Journalists: We Want to Restore Relations with Turkey



Netanyahu: We Want to Restore Relations with Turkey

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu meets Turkish journalists, says Turkey and Israel are looking for ways to normalize relations.
Netanyahu meets Turkish journalists

Netanyahu meets Turkish journalists
Flash 90

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said on Tuesday that Turkey and Israel are looking for ways to normalize political relations, saying, “We want to restore relations with Turkey.”

Netanyahu spoke to a group of Turkish journalists in Jerusalem and his comments were reported by the Turkish daily Today’s Zaman.

“In a region where instability reigns, Israel and Turkey are two quite stable countries. I believe in [our] common interest,” Netanyahu told the journalists, adding that Turks and Jews have a long history.

The newspaper noted that the conversation between Netanyahu and the Turkish journalists was the first time since the May 2010 incident on the Mavi Marmara, which occurred when the ship tried to break the blockade on Gaza and refused to turn aside when ordered to. When IDF soldiers boarded the ship they were violently attacked. Soldiers opened fire in response, killing nine Turkish activists.

The incident caused Israel’s relationship with Turkey, already strained, to break down completely. Turkish leaders demanded an apology, but Israeli leaders refused, saying Israel had acted in self-defense.

Today’s Zaman noted that Netanyahu received the Turkish journalists in the same room where Israel’s National Security Cabinet meets. In the back, behind Netanyahu both Israeli and Turkish flags stood….READ MORE

Israel Political Brief July 24, 2012: Kadima Chairman Shaul Mofaz Hints, Again, Iran Strike Imminent in Interview on IDF Radio



Mofaz Hints, Again, Iran Strike Imminent

Kadima chairman accuses Netanyahu of “horse-trading with the Holy of Holies of Israel.”
Shaul Mofaz

Shaul Mofaz
Flash 90

Kadima chairman Shaul Mofaz  hinted Tuesday, for the second time in 24 hours, that an Israeli strike on Iran is imminent. Mofaz was Deputy Prime Minister and a member of the inner security cabinet until a few days ago, and therefore was in a position to know if such a strike is indeed impending.

He did this in the context of a failed attempt by Likud to engineer a split in Kadima, and bring seven current Kadima Knesset members – as well as former MK Tzachi Hanegbi – into the coalition.

“I say this with a very heavy heart and with a very bad feeling,” Mofaz told IDF Radio. “It is worrisome that this is happening, of all places, in a state that used to know how to maintain the difference between political moves and personal security. This is horse-trading in the Holy of Holies of Israel.”…READ MORE

Israel Political Brief July 24, 2012: Journalist Uri Blau Convicted of Holding Classified Military Documents



Journalist Uri Blau convicted of holding classified military documents

Source: JTA, 7-24-12

Uri Blau, the Haaretz journalist who accepted classified documents from an Israeli soldier, was convicted under a plea bargain….READ MORE

Israel Political Brief July 24, 2012: Avigdor Lieberman Tells Turkish Journalists: ‘No Reason’ to Apologize for Mavi Marmara Incident



‘No reason’ to apologize for Mavi Marmara incident, Lieberman tells Turkish journalists

Source: JTA, 7-24-12

Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman Avigdor Lieberman told Turkish journalists that Israel has “no reason to apologize” for the Mavi Marmara incident….READ MORE

Israel Political Brief July 24, 2012: GOP Leaders: President Barack Obama’s Announcing He Will Visit Israel in Second Presidential Term Comes 4 Years Too Late



GOP Leaders: Obama Announcement Comes 4 Years Too Late

Republican leaders have criticized an announcement made Monday that if President Obama were to get re-elected, he would visit Israel.
Mitt Romney

Mitt Romney

Republican leaders have sharply criticized an announcement made Monday that if President Obama were to get re-elected to serve a second term in office, he would visit Israel.

“President 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 us to expect in 2008,” House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) said in a statement released by the Mitt Romney campaign.

“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 program 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, according to the statement….

“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,” he said.

Former United Nations ambassador John Bolton said in an interview with WABC Radio on Monday that, “Obama has been in office three and a half years, and he has had time to do more fundraisers than any other first-term American president, has probably played more rounds of golf than any other president since Dwight Eisenhower, and yet he has not had time to fit into his busy schedule even one trip to Israel.”

Florida Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a backer of Republican Mitt Romney and the chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, also lashed out against President Obama for failing to visit Israel during his first term.

“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. We can only speculate about why the President has failed to visit the capital of our closest ally in the region, but we don’t need to speculate about the timing of the latest hint from the White House that President Obama will travel to Israel in his second term.

“It’s politically inspired, coming as it does only days before Mitt Romney heads off to Jerusalem.  One should not play political games with U.S. foreign policy, particularly at a moment when the Middle East is a tinderbox,” said Ros-Lehtinen.

Israel Political Brief July 24, 2012: Obama Aide: Expect President Barack Obama to Visit Israel During Second Term if Re-elected



Obama Aide: Expect Him to Visit Israel if Re-elected

Americans can “expect” President Barack Obama to visit Israel during his second term, an aide tells reporters.
Barack Obama

Barack Obama

Americans can “expect” President Barack Obama to visit Israel during his second term, an aide told reporters on Monday.

Colin Kahl, a former deputy assistant secretary of Defense for the Middle East, was quoted by as having said attacks by presumptive GOP nominee Mitt Romney, who is visiting Israel on his European swing this week, that Obama hasn’t traveled to Israel are invalid.

“We can expect him to visit Israel on a second term if he is re-elected,” Kahl said.

Politico noted that Kahl did not offer an explanation for why Obama hasn’t visited Israel as president, adding he simply described the U.S.-Israel relationship as “in good shape,” contradicting Romney’s critique.

Kahl did acknowledge that the Obama administration’s relations with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s government haven’t always been great, saying, “We’re all aware of the optics and some of the politics of personal relationships in the last couple years in the U.S. and Israeli relationship.”…

Kahl pointed out that Ronald Reagan “never visited Israel and George W. Bush didn’t visit until the final year of his second term” and neither were criticized by Republicans for their travel itinerary.

“I don’t think this is a serious policy difference,” he said. “It’s a distraction.”…

On Sunday, former United Nations Ambassador John Bolton criticized Obama for not visiting Israel as president.

Chiding the president for recently playing his 100th round of golf since taking office, Bolton said, “Obama has been in office three and a half years and he has had time to do more fundraisers than any other first-term American president; has probably played more rounds of golf than any other president since Dwight Eisenhower. And yet he has not had time to fit into his busy schedule even one trip to Israel.”

Romney said last month he would do “the opposite” of Obama and stand firm with Israel.

Speaking to Evangelical Christians, Romney underlined the importance of backing Israel and stopping Iran from achieving nuclear capability. Obama is sounding “like he’s more frightened that Israel might take military action than he’s concerned that Iran might become nuclear,” he said.

Romney’s upcoming visit was an issue Netanyahu tried to downplay during an interview with CBS’s “Face the Nation” on Sunday.

The Prime Minister said he would not get involved in U.S. election politics and that he will say to Romney “pretty much the same thing I said to the presumptive Democratic candidate Sen. Barack Obama when I greeted him four years ago, roughly at the same time in the campaign.”

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