From the Olympics to the Middle East, Mitt Romney is hoping to hit the reset button on a foreign trip that was supposed to show off his credentials as a statesman.
He may have his work cut out for him. Romney will be going from the U.K., the closest ally of the U.S., to the Middle East. It's one of the most sensitive diplomatic arenas on earth, and he'll be meeting with Israeli leaders at one of the most sensitive times of the year in the Jewish calendar.
The GOP presidential candidate's mid-campaign foreign trip got off to a bad start when the British press turned on him in London after he said some of the country's Olympic preparations were "disconcerting." That led to several other minor gaffes as well as a rebuke from London's mayor and the British prime minister. Romney tried to clarify his comments Friday, but the damage had been done as he faced a blizzard of unfriendly British headlines.
Who's He Meeting?
Both the Israeli press and American reporters will be closely watching when he touches down in Israel.
On Saturday, Romney will meet with Prime Minister Salam Fayyad of the Palestinian National Authority. Sunday in Jerusalem, Romney meets with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, President Shimon Peres (mentioned frequently and fondly in Romney's 2008 campaign stumps), and members of the Israeli opposition. He also meets with defense minister and former prime minister Ehud Barak and Israel's ambassador to the United States, as well as other officials. He will also deliver a major foreign policy address. He's notably not meeting with Palestinian National Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. His advisers say he's meeting with Fayyad because they believe Fayyad is "committed to institution building, civil society institution building in Palestinian territories" as well as "security cooperation between the Israelis and Palestinians."
In the Shadow of the President
The 36-hour trip, his fourth to the country, is now on the heels of President Obama's announcement that he is releasing an additional $70 million in military aid for Israel to help the country boost production of a short-range rocket defense system, known as Iron Dome. The White House says the timing is merely a coincidence and not meant to upstage their opponent.
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The presumptive GOP nominee has famously said he would "do the opposite" the president has done with regard to Israel and has continuously painted the Obama administration as anti-Israel. But he's promised to abide by the "water's edge" rule and not criticize the president while out of the country.