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Mitt visits Israel as Obama bolsters U.S.-Israeli security, military aid

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WASHINGTON -- Mitt Romney bombed in London. How will he play Sunday in Jerusalem?

President Barack Obama launched a preemptive strike Friday -- in advance of Romney's visit to Israel -- by signing a law to strengthen Israel's security and to provide an additional $70 million for its Iron Dome missile defense system.

Obama was flanked by five Jews at the ceremony: Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Rep. Howard Berman (D-Calif.) and three influential Jewish leaders: Richard Stone, chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations; Lee Rosenberg, AIPAC chair and Howard Friedman, past chair of the AIPAC board.

And to frost the cake, Obama announced at the Oval Office bill signing that Defense Secretary Leon Panetta will be visiting Israel to "find additional ways that we can ensure such cooperation at a time when, frankly, the region is experiencing heightened tensions."

The Obama team has been working to solidify its Jewish support -- more than 70 percent of Jews voted for him in 2008 -- since the re-election campaign started last year.

Romney and his backers are trying to peel off Jewish backers -- where a switch of a few voters in Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania and other battleground states may make a difference.

Sunday is 100 days before the election.

The Obama campaign will mark the day sponsoring some 4,600 grass-roots events across the nation.

Romney will be in Jerusalem meeting with Israeli and Palestinian Authority officials, on one of the saddest days on the Jewish calendar -- a fast day for some -- Tish B'Av, when the first and second temples were destroyed eons ago. On Monday, he headlines a fund-raiser for U.S. backers in Jerusalem.

Romney lands in Israel coming off a disastrous diplomatic debut in London.

He suffered self-inflicted wounds, stemming from his comments on an NBC interview questioning the readiness of London for the 2012 Olympic Games that opened Friday night. That drew a rebuke from British Prime Minister David Cameron. Boris Johnson, the mayor of London, taunted Romney before a crowd of about 60,000.

"There's guy called Mitt Romney who wants to know whether we are ready. Are we ready? Are we ready, Yes we are!" Johnson cried out.

Meanwhile, as fast as they could hit send buttons, Democrats back in the U.S. gleefully highlighted every bad headline -- and the Romney faux pas of revealing he had a meeting with the British MI-6 secret intelligence agency, not a ready-for-prime-time move.

Romney wanted to use the trip to show he was prepared to take a place among world leaders. Instead, he was belittled. In the Sun, the headline was "Mitt the Twit: Wannabe President in Games Insult."

He'll meet with an old friend he met while they were young Boston businessmen -- Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Dan Senor, a Romney adviser, said in a briefing they will be joined by Defense Secretary Ehud Barak, Foreign Minister Avidor Lieberman and Israel's ambassador to the U.S., Michael Oren.

Don't think from this Israel is taking sides. Oren issued a statement on Friday -- that the White House forwarded to the U.S. press -- where he expressed "profound gratitude to President Barack Obama on his signing of the U.S.-Israel Enhanced Security Cooperation Act."

Much anticipated will be Romney's Sunday evening speech, to be focused, Senor said, on how the U.S. has to do more to "lock arms" with Israeli leaders and convey to the world "we will treat threats to Israel" as threats to the U.S.

Romney wraps Sunday at a Tish B'Av break-the-fast at Netanyahu's home.

Maybe Romney will recoup in Jerusalem -- or at least not make more goofs.

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Lynn Sweet

Lynn Sweet is a columnist and the Washington Bureau Chief for the Chicago Sun-Times.

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This page contains a single entry by Lynn Sweet published on July 28, 2012 7:27 AM.

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Mitt Romney's Israel Speech puts him at odds with U.S. policy: Calls Jerusalem "the capital of Israel" Update is the next entry in this blog.

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