Obama Is Likely to Visit Israel in Second Term, Campaign Says
President Obama, who has not traveled to Israel since taking office, is likely to visit the country in a second term, a former top aide said on Monday.
“We can expect him to visit Israel in a second term, if he is elected,” said Colin Kahl, Mr. Obama’s former deputy assistant secretary of defense for the Middle East, in a campaign conference call devoted to jabbing Mitt Romney over his foreign policy positions.
The call was timed to try to put Mr. Romney on the defensive, days before he leaves for a trip to Europe and Israel.
Mr. Kahl, responding to questions about the sometimes uneasy relationship between Mr. Obama and the Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, said relations were “in good shape” and cautioned against reading anything into the president’s travels, or lack thereof.
The relationship between the two countries “shouldn’t be judged by a travel itinerary,” Mr. Kahl said, calling criticisms about the president’s not going to Israel a “distraction.”
Mr. Kahl pointed out that President George W. Bush did not visit Israel until late in his second term, and that President Ronald Reagan never traveled to the country when in office.
Mr. Romney has said that, if elected president, his first foreign trip would be to Israel.
During the call, former aides to Mr. Obama demanded that Mr. Romney offer a detailed set of foreign policy recommendations when he travels to Europe and the Middle East later this week, suggesting that so far, his campaign has dispensed “political platitudes.”
In particular, they called on Mr. Romney to specifically explain, while abroad, how he would confront security challenges in Afghanistan, Israel and Iran.
Robert Gibbs, the president’s former press secretary, said that “given his lack of experience on these issues and his support for failed policies pursued during Bush administration, this trip should be judged on the type of substantial ideas Mitt Romney outlines.”
Mr. Gibbs seemed to draw a contrast between Mr. Obama’s trip abroad as a candidate with that of Mr. Romney. Mr. Gibbs recalled, in clinical detail, all of Mr. Obama’s meetings with American soldiers and military leaders in Afghanistan and Iraq. Mr. Romney’s schedule of meetings while abroad is focused heavily on civilian leaders, rather than military ones.
For its part, the Romney campaign pointed to what it suggested was Mr. Obama’s weak record on foreign policy.
“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,” said Ryan Williams, a Romney campaign spokesman. “Governor Romney will restore the pillars of American strength to secure our interests and defend our values.”