President Barack Obama, if elected to a second term, would visit Israel, something he has not done since taking office-according to Obama campaign aides.
In a conference call with reporters Monday, Colin Kahl, the former deputy assistant secretary of defense for the Middle East, said “we can expect him to visit Israel in a second term should he be elected.”
Republicans have criticized the president for not making the trek to visit the United States’ valued ally.
Earlier Monday, John Bolton, a former U.S ambassador to the United Nations and a foreign policy adviser for GOP challenger Mitt Romney, also criticized Obama for not visiting the country, saying though the president has had time to fit in round after round of golf, “he has not had time to fit into his busy schedule even one trip to Israel.”
In response to criticism, Kahl continued: “The president has been to Israel multiple times, but more than that he’s backed up his words with feats,” noting, among other accomplishments in the region, funding of the ‘Iron Dome’ missile defense system, put in place to intercept rockets entering Israel.
Obama aides were quick to highlight former Republican presidents’ track records on visiting Israel – Ronald Reagan, who never went as president and George W. Bush – who traveled to Israel twice during the last year of his second term.
With the start of Romney’s overseas trip, which includes a stop in Israel, just a few days away, the Obama campaign sought to emphasize their rival candidate’s resistance to lay out a specific plan for the country’s foreign policy.
The former Massachusetts governor’s campaign has said that the focus of the candidate’s trip will be to “listen and learn” and will not engage in a policy discussion. Despite this, senior Obama campaign adviser Robert Gibbs said voters will be looking for Romney to lay out a more specific foreign policy plan “rather than just generalities and sound bites.”
The Romney campaign responded with this statement issued shortly after the call.
“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 interest and defend our values,” said Romney Campaign spokesman Ryan Williams, referring to the Obama campaign’s criticism of Romney’s attacks on the administration’s policy in Israel.
The president’s campaign also hammered Romney’s plan to hold a fund-raiser while in London, saying Obama himself did not do an overseas fund-raiser during a similar trip when he was campaigning for the White House in 2008.
The Romney campaign pushed back against this argument, citing a Berlin speech Obama gave on his 2008 trip where shortly after campaign manager David Plouffe used the speech to solicit for funds.
Romney is set to begin his travels Wednesday, making an appearance at the London Olympic Games, Israel and Poland all the while meeting with top foreign political figures, including Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.