Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney plans to visit Israel in the coming weeks and meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, according to a campaign official.
It will be Romney’s fourth visit to Israel, said the official, who declined to provide a specific timetable for the former Massachusetts governor’s trip. The official wasn’t authorized to discuss the trip publicly.
Romney has said he plans to travel to the Summer Olympics that start in London on July 27, and the Israel trip could be timed to coincide with that travel.
Romney is seeking support among Jewish voters, a group that typically backs Democrats, as well as trying to bolster his standing among evangelical Christians. President Barack Obama won 78 percent of Jewish voters in the 2008 White House race, according to national exit polls. Swing states with large Jewish populations include Florida and Ohio.
Foreign travel is also often done by presidential nominees seeking to demonstrate their foreign policy credentials.
Romney’s trip has similarities to one Obama made in July 2008 as he was running for the presidency. On that visit, the then Illinois senator declared his commitment to Israeli security and also visited Palestinian officials in the West Bank to signal balance in his approach to the region.
As president, Obama has had public disagreements with Netanyahu’s government about issues including limiting Jewish settlement construction in Palestinian areas and as to when a strike might be needed to destroy Iran’s nuclear program. The discord has given Republicans a chance to appeal to Jewish voters.
During the Republican primary season, Romney accused Obama of repeatedly throwing Israel “under the bus,” and said that his policy toward the Jewish state would be the opposite of the incumbent’s.
Romney and Netanyahu first met in the mid-1970s, when both men worked as corporate advisers at a consulting firm in Boston, and have continued a friendship during the following decades.
During a Republican debate in December, Romney referred to Netanyahu by his nickname, Bibi, and said he had known him “for a long time.”
The New York Times earlier reported Romney’s planned travel to Israel.
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