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Obama Campaign: President Will Visit Israel During Second Term

Has it been 4 years already? Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama lays a wreath at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem, July, 2008.

Has it been 4 years already? Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama lays a wreath at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem, July, 2008.
Photo Credit: Michal Fattal / FLASH90

A top Obama campaign spokesperson said that President Obama would visit Israel in his second term in a conference call with reporters on Monday.

“We can expect him to visit Israel in a second term, should he be reelected,” Colin Kahl, former deputy assistant secretary of defense for the Middle East and current campaign spokesman on the region.

The statement comes in advance of Republican Presidential hopeful Mitt Romney’s trip to Israel on July 28. Romney is scheduled to meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, President Shimon Peres, U.S. Ambassador Daniel Shapiro, and Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad. Before visiting Israel, Romney will fly to London to meet with British Prime Minister David Cameron and take in a few events at the 2012 Olympic Games. He will end his trip in Poland, where he is expected to deliver a major speech. The trip will be Romney’s fourth visit to Israel.

Kahl said that Romney has so far provided little in the way of substantive foreign policy positions, and that the trip is his opportunity to offer more than just criticism of Obama.

When pressed by reporters on Obama’s perceived disfavor towards Israel – which appeared to manifest most notably in his failure to visit Israel in his first term despite coming to the region to visit Saudi Arabia and Egypt – Kahl said that “[b]eing a friend of Israel shouldn’t be judged by a travel itinerary…I don’t think this is a serious policy difference; it’s basically a distraction.” He also noted that Obama visited Israel as a Presidential candidate in 2008 and asserted that a number of other presidents did not visit Israel in their first terms.

“Why didn’t he visit in his first term?” demanded Herb London, senior fellow of the Manhattan Institute and president emeritus of the Hudson Institute. “It is obviously transparent that [Obama] needs the political and financial support of the Jewish community for his current campaign effort.” London, a registered Republican, continued, “by throwing this bone to Jews he thinks it will convince them he cares about the Jewish State.”

Jeffrey S. Wiesenfeld, a conservative Republican who worked for New York Republican Governor George Pataki and in the Democratic administration of New York City Mayor Ed Koch, responded more sanguinely to the news: “The Jewish community, as well as the government of Israel, is doubtless pleased when all private citizens, including former presidents, visit Israel.”

In reality, there is little reason for Obama to fear blow-back over his failure to visit Israel, because a candidate’s stance on Israel is no longer the barometer for support in the Jewish community that it once was. A recent AJC poll that asked American Jews what the most important issues in deciding their vote were found that 80 percent cited the economy, 57 percent said health care, 26 percent national security and 22 percent cited U.S.-Israel relations.

Furthermore, despite recent polls suggesting a 10-15 point drop from the 78 percent of the Jewish vote Obama received in the 2008 Presidential election, he still retains the overwhelming support of less observant and more liberal American Jews; the same AJC poll found that 67 percent of those who never attend religious services would vote for Obama. Since religiously observant, conservative Jews account for only 10 percent of American Jewry, Obama is a virtual lock to receive a strong majority of the Jewish vote again.

It is therefore understandable that on the same day that Obama was communicating the purported schedule of his second term, his chief of staff Jacob Lew met with leaders of the Reform and Reconstructionist movements – Obama’s most liberal and loyal voting base among Jews.

A statement issued by the Reform movement leaders in attendance said in part: “Much of the discussion addressed the Movement’s concerns about protecting the civil rights of women and minorities and economic plight of the poor and vulnerable.” Also discussed in the meeting were health care, immigration law, and gay rights.

Lori Lowenthal Marcus and JTA contributed to this report.

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2 Responses to “Obama Campaign: President Will Visit Israel During Second Term”

  1. Aflu Ellen says:

    If he really was a Christian that would have been one of the first place he visited not Saudi Arabia and bowing to a dictator. Now he wants to visit because Romney intends to. Such a phony. When are you going to admit you are a practicing Muslim obama?

  2. People who are skeptical about President Obama's positions on Israel should consider the following:

    Obama has taken many positive actions for Israel including: rejecting the Goldstone report that criticized Israeli actions in the war in Gaza; asking Congress to approve a $205 million package to help Israel build a new anti-missile defense system; successfully advocating for Israel’s admission into the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development; giving a speech in the heart of the Arab world, in which he told his listeners that they need to recognize the legitimacy of a Jewish state; stating to the UN General Assembly clearly and unequivocally that “Israel is a sovereign state and the historic homeland of the Jewish people” and “It should be clear to all that efforts to chip away at Israel’s legitimacy will only be met by the unshakeable opposition of the US.”.

    Israeli leaders, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, have stated many times that the U.S. has been extremely cooperative in meeting Israel’s security needs.

    Another example of Obama’s strong support for Israel is his very positive response to a frantic, middle-of-the-night call from Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu that helped free six Israelis who were trapped in the Israeli embassy in Cairo that was under attack by militant Egyptians. After they were freed, Netanyahu said: "I would like to express my gratitude to the President of the United States, Barack Obama. I asked for his help. This was a decisive and fateful moment. He said, “I will do everything I can.” And so he did. He used every considerable means and influence of the United States to help us. We owe him a special measure of gratitude. This attests to the strong alliance between Israel and the United States."

    On September 22, 2011, Prime Minister Netanyahu heaped additional praise on President Obama for his talk at the United Nations, in which Obama expressed opposition to U.N. recognition of a Palestinian state, and indicated that he would veto a resolution supporting that recognition in the U.N. Security Council. Netanyahu indicated that Obama deserved a “badge of honor” for that talk.

    People who think President Obama has a negative attitude toward Jews or that he is more sensitive to Muslims than Jews should consider the following: his initial chief of staff Rahm Emanuel is Jewish and the son of Israelis; his present chief of staff Jack Lew is an Orthodox Jew; one of his key advisors David Axlerod, is Jewish, and he is also a key strategist for Obama’s reelection campaign; Obama nominated a Jew, Elana Kagan, as a Supreme Court Justice (even though that left the 9-member Court with three Jews and no Protestant members; he is the first president to have Passover Seders in the White House; and Obama and his cabinet members have frequently stressed their solidarity with Jews and with Israel.

    I think it is important to stress that Israel needs a resolution of her conflict with the Palestinians in order to be able to avert renewed conflict, effectively address her economic, social, and environmental problems, and remain both a Jewish and a democratic state. Of course this will not be easy to obtain, but I believe it should be a priority, with conditions to provide security for Israel a prime consideration.

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