Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, seeking to bolster his support among Jewish voters and evangelical Christians, plans to visit Israel in the coming weeks and meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
It will be Romney’s fourth visit to Israel, said a campaign official who declined to provide a specific timetable for the former Massachusetts governor’s trip. The official wasn’t authorized to discuss the trip publicly.
Romney has said he plans to travel to the Summer Olympics that start in London on July 27, and the Israel trip could be timed to coincide with that travel.
Andrea Saul, a Romney campaign spokeswoman, said today that Robert Diamond, who stepped down as chief executive officer of Barclays Plc, will no longer co-host a London campaign fundraiser for Romney as part of the Olympics trip. Diamond, 60, will leave the CEO post immediately, the London-based bank said in a statement today, a day before he faces questions by British lawmakers.
Barclays was hit by a record 290 million-pound ($455 million) fine last week for rigging the benchmark for more than $360 trillion of securities. Diamond yesterday had defied pressure to quit, pledging to implement the findings of a review into how the bank sets the London interbank offered rate. U.K. regulators are weighing whether to start a criminal probe into Libor-fixing.
Romney’s trip to Israel comes as the presumptive Republican nominee courts Jewish voters, a group that typically backs Democrats and gave 78 percent support to President Barack Obama in the 2008 White House race, according to national exit polls. Swing states with large Jewish populations include Florida and Ohio.
Presidential nominees often take overseas trips in a bid to demonstrate their foreign policy credentials.
Romney’s trip has similarities to one Obama made in July 2008 as he was running for the presidency. On that visit, the then-Illinois senator declared his commitment to Israeli security and also visited Palestinian officials in the West Bank to signal balance in his approach to the region.
As president, Obama has had public disagreements with Netanyahu’s government over issues such as limiting Jewish settlement construction in Palestinian areas and as to when a military strike might be needed to destroy Iran’s nuclear program. The discord has given Republicans a chance to appeal to Jewish voters.
‘Under the Bus’
During the Republican primary season, Romney accused Obama of repeatedly throwing Israel “under the bus,” and said his policy toward the Jewish state would be the opposite of the incumbent’s.
Romney and Netanyahu first met in the mid-1970s, when both worked as corporate advisers at a consulting firm in Boston, and have continued a friendship during the following decades.
During a Republican debate in December, Romney referred to Netanyahu by his nickname, Bibi, and said he had known him “for a long time.”
The New York Times earlier reported Romney’s planned travel to Israel.