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Israelis seemed eager to welcome Romney. The New York Times quoted Ron Dermer, a top adviser to Netanyahu, as saying that Romney is a “strong friend of Israel and we’ll be happy to meet with him.”
Romney’s visit could prove important in his efforts to appeal to Jews and pro-Israel evangelicals, said William Daroff, the Washington director for the Jewish Federations of North America and a former GOP operative.
“There is a definite perception that the Jewish vote and the pro-Israel vote are in play this election cycle,” Daroff said in an email.
Polls have suggested, however, that to the degree Jews have grown disenchanted with Obama – his Jewish approval ratings are now in the low 60s as opposed to the low 80s at the outset of his presidency – it is because of the economy.
It is among evangelicals where Romney’s visit might resonate, said David Brog, executive director of Christians United for Israel. “Its no mistake when conservative candidates want to appeal to the Christian base, Israel is the top issue to speak on,” Brog said.
Michael Hines, the media director for the International Christian Embassy in Jerusalem, a Nashville-based group that conducts pro-Israel outreach among evangelicals, said a visit to Israel could help cement Romney’s relationship with the community.
“In the primaries…there was a certain reticence in the evangelical community,” Hines said. “Now that everyone has coalesced, or at least Republican evangelicals have coalesced, they see him as a contrast to Obama and there is a widespread view” among evangelicals “that Obama has not been the best friend of Israel.”
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Expansive outreach, of course, is nothing new for AIPAC. But in the wake of battles over Iran sanctions legislation that pitted the pro-Israel lobbying powerhouse against the White House, many congressional Democrats and liberals more generally, AIPAC’s traditional emphasis on Israel as a bipartisan issue has taken on added urgency.
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