WASHINGTON – Mitt Romney is planning a trip to Israel this summer to meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, according to a campaign official, in a trip abroad that could bolster Romney’s foreign policy credentials.
The former Massachusetts governor is planning to meet with a variety of officials while on the trip, including Palestinian Authority President Salam Fayyad; President Shimon Peres of Israel; and American ambassador Daniel B. Shapiro.
News of the trip, first reported by The New York Times, was confirmed by the Romney campaign.
“He’s a strong friend of Israel and we’ll be happy to meet with him,” Ron Dermer, a senior adviser to Netanyahu, told the Times. “We value strong bipartisan support for Israel and we’re sure it will only deepen that.”
As a former Massachusetts governor and a business executive, Romney lacks any significant foreign policy experience and has staked much of his 2012 campaign on the domestic economy, which polls indicate is overwhelmingly the top issue for voters.
But making a prominent election-year trip to Israel has long been considered a way to cultivate support among American Jewish voters who agree with Romney that President Obama has thrown Israel “under the bus.” Romney also has ties to Netanyahu; the two worked together for about a year at Boston Consulting Group in the late 1970s, after Romney graduated from Harvard law and business schools and Netanyahu from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Last year, Romney traveled to London for a fund-raiser and met with several high-level British officials. He also traveled in January 2011 on a foreign trip that included Israel, Afghanistan, and Jordan.
Obama, as a candidate, traveled to Israel four years ago, meeting with several of the same dignitaries whom Romney plans to meet. Obama also traveled to Berlin and drew an estimated 200,000 for a speech that was simultaneously translated into German.
It is unclear whether Romney’s foreign trip will include stops other than Israel. Romney is also planning to attend the opening ceremonies for the Summer Olympics in London.