Republican candidate Mitt Romney is anxious to put his London gaffes behind him in Israel. The presidential hopeful is on the second part of a three-country foreign trip aimed at bolstering his credentials as a diplomat.
Romney arrived in Israel late Saturday, hoping for a warmer welcome than he received in London.
The former Massachusetts governor upset Londoners on Saturday by questioning whether the city was ready for the Olympics. He later retracted his statement after being rebuked by Prime Minister David Cameron.
Sharing his views
In Israel, Romney will return to a familiar campaign issue: stronger ties between the United States and Israel. He has been promising to strengthen the nations' alliance if elected.
Romney's first meeting on Sunday was with longtime friend and conservative Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, before delivering a high-profile speech.
He is also set to meet with Defense Minister Ehud Barak, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, President Shimon Peres and Israeli opposition leaders. He will not see Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, but he will sit down with the Palestinian prime minister, Salam Fayyad, in Jerusalem.
Whilst in Israel, Romney is expected to share his tough view on Iran's nuclear program. He believes there should be a clearer military threat to the Islamic Republic.
Senior national security aide Dan Senor said the candidate would back Israel if the country ever had to use military means to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon.
"If Israel has to take action on its own, in order to stop Iran from developing that capability, the governor would respect that decision," said Senor, who advises Romney on national security.
Taking aim at Obama
Romney is also expected to continue his critique of Obama's stance on Israel, showcasing himself as the pro-Israel candidate instead in an attempt to woo Jewish votes.
Obama, by contrast, has not visited Israel since becoming president. The president did try to upstage Romney's visit, however, by announcing new legislation expanding military and civilian cooperation with Israel.
Obama rejects Romney's criticism that he is anything other than supportive of Israel, pointing to the unprecedented security cooperation between Israel and the United States.
Romney's tour of Israel will end Monday after a closed-door fundraiser in which he is set to receive cash from a crowd of mostly Jewish Americans living in Israel. The fundraiser is set to take place in a Jerusalem hotel, and the campaign has not given any reasons as to why the press will be excluded from the event.
The candidate will then finish his foreign trip in Poland before returning to the United States to continue his election campaign.
There are just 100 days to go before the November election.
tm, mz/ncy (AP, Reuters)