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Transition 2012

A guide to foreign policy and the 2012 U.S. presidential transition.

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Israel Update: Examining Obama’s Uneasy Relations

by Newsteam Staff
July 17, 2012

U.S. visitors stand in front of the Western Wall, Judaism's holiest prayer site, in Jerusalem's Old City November 6, 2011 (Baz Ratner/Courtesy Reuters). U.S. visitors stand in front of the Western Wall, Judaism's holiest prayer site, in Jerusalem's Old City November 6, 2011 (Baz Ratner/Courtesy Reuters).

President Barack Obama’s challenges with the U.S.-Israel relationship continue to generate talk on the campaign trail as his GOP rival Mitt Romney’s trip to the region draws near.

Though President Barack Obama visited as a presidential candidate during his first campaign– and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will visit this week — he has not visited Israel since taking office and his cool relationship with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is no secret, notes Politico‘s Maggie Haberman.

“The White House has made increased efforts toward Jewish outreach at home, and has rebutted GOP criticism on defense spending by pointing to historic levels of assistance that some Israeli officials have approved of. Still, that does little to change the fact of tension between the administrations, which has lived on into an election year,” she writes.

The Washington Post‘s Scott Wilson takes a deep look at President Obama’s relationship with Israel going all the way back to his 2008 campaign. Wilson writes that the Obama administration’s attempts at historic change for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict “foundered ultimately on his political and tactical misjudgments, on a lack of trusted relationships and on an outdated view of a conflict that many of his closest advisers imparted to him.”

Romney is expected to unveil his plans for U.S. policy in the Middle East (EuropeanJewishPress) during the trip, where it has been reported he will meet with Israeli President Shimon Peres, Prime Minister Netanyahu, Labor opposition leader Shelly Yechimovitch, and Palestinian Authority officials.

At the Jerusalem Post, Douglas M. Bloomfield says a “centerpiece of Romney’s outreach to Jewish voters and donors and to other friends of Israel” has been to paint the current administration as an unreliable supporter of the Jewish state. “Netanyahu’s disdain for Obama is no secret, and Romney’s statements indicating that as president he would take his cues on Middle East policy, if not directions, from Netanyahu makes this trip unusually sensitive,” Bloomfield writes.

For more on the candidates’ stances, check out CFR’s Issue Trackers on the Candidates on the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict.

Suggested Other Reading:

On his blog Pressure Points, CFR’s Elliott Abrams looks at Hillary Clinton’s first visit to Israel in nearly two years.

At Foreign Policy, Shmuel Rosner says the United States media has disproportionate coverage of Israel compared to other countries or issues and asks what’s behind “America’s Israel obsession”.

This CFR Crisis Guide offers an in-depth, interactive look at the history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and its geopolitical repercussions.

Contributing Editor Gayle S. Putrich and Senior Editor Toni Johnson

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