Romney to court donors in Israel before heading to Poland for final leg of trip | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Romney to court donors in Israel before heading to Poland for final leg of trip

American businessman Sheldon Adelson, who has said he will donate millions to Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney's campaign, is seated before Romney delivers a speech in Jerusalem, Sunday, July 29, 2012. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
July 30, 2012 - 1:35 AM

JERUSALEM - Mitt Romney will spend his final hours in Jerusalem courting wealthy donors before heading to Poland, the final leg of a three-nation overseas tour designed to bolster the Republican presidential candidate's foreign policy credentials.

Romney, having publicly pledged "a solemn duty and moral imperative" to protect Israel, is scheduled to host a Monday morning fundraiser at the luxurious King David Hotel with American citizens willing to pay at least $50,000 per person.

Standing on Israeli soil for the first time as the Republican Party's presumptive presidential nominee, Romney on Sunday declared Jerusalem to be the capital of the Jewish state and said the United States has promised never to "look away from our passion and commitment to Israel." He hopes to defeat President Barack Obama in the November general election.

Romney's campaign says his trip abroad, which began in England last week, is aimed at improving the former Massachusetts governor's foreign policy experience through a series of meetings with foreign leaders. The candidate has largely avoided direct criticism of Obama while on foreign soil.

The Jerusalem fundraiser, however, is a political event that could raise millions of dollars for Romney's campaign fund. It marks at least the second finance event during his tour. The first, in London, attracted about 250 people to a $2,500 per person fundraiser.

Both presidential candidates have aggressively courted American donors living abroad, a practice that is legal and has been used for decades.

Several donors were among those gathered in Jerusalem Sunday for Romney's speech.

Romney's declaration that Jerusalem is Israel's capital was keeping with claims made by Israeli governments for decades, even though the United States, like other nations, maintains its embassy in Tel Aviv. He did not say if he would order the embassy moved if he wins the White House, but strongly suggested so in a CNN interview.

"My understanding is the policy of our nation has been a desire to move our embassy ultimately to the capital (Jerusalem)," he said, adding, "I would only want to do so and to select the timing in accordance with the government of Israel."

His remarks on the subject during his speech drew a standing ovation from his audience, which included Sheldon Adelson, the American businessman who has promised to donate more than $100 million to help defeat Obama.

Adelson was among a several donors who flew to the region for a day of sightseeing with Romney in addition to private meetings with top Israeli officials.

A group of donors also met with a top aide to President Benjamin Netanyahu, one donor said on the condition of anonymity to discuss private meetings. After the meeting, the donors toured other historical sites in Jerusalem.

Romney met with Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu and other leaders before the speech. He also visited the Western Wall, Judaism's holiest site, where he was mobbed by worshippers. In addition, Romney met with Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad.

In his remarks, Romney steered clear of overt criticism of Obama, even though he said the threat of a nuclear-armed Iran "has only become worse" in the past five years.

In an unspoken rebuttal to Obama and other critics, Romney said, "It is sometimes said that those who are the most committed to stopping the Iranian regime from securing nuclear weapons are reckless and provocative and inviting war.

"The opposite is true. We are the true peacemakers," he said.

The former Massachusetts governor also stepped back from a comment a senior aide made a short while before the speech.

"We recognize Israel's right to defend itself," he told the audience. Earlier, the aide, Dan Senor, previewed the speech for reporters, saying that "if Israel has to take action on its own, in order to stop Iran from developing the capability, the governor would respect that decision."

Romney flew to the Middle East from Britain, where he caused a stir by questioning whether officials there were fully prepared for the Olympic Games. A stop in Poland will complete his trip.

Four years ago, then-U.S. Sen. Barack Obama also visited Israel as a candidate, part of a five-nation trip meant to establish his own foreign policy credentials.

A goal of Romney's overseas trip is to demonstrate his confidence on the world stage, but his stop in Israel also was designed to appeal to evangelical voters at home and to cut into Obama's support among Jewish voters and donors. A Gallup survey of Jewish voters released Friday showed Obama with a 68-25 edge over Romney.

Romney and other Republicans have said Obama is insufficiently supportive of Israel, noting statements the president has made about settlements and his handling of evident Iranian attempts to develop nuclear weapons.

Tehran is closer to developing nuclear weapons capability than before, Romney said. "Preventing that outcome must be our highest national security priority."

In a March speech before a pro-Israel lobby in Washington, Obama warned of "loose talk of war" that serves only to drive up oil prices. "Now is the time to let our increased pressure sink in and sustain the broad international coalition we have built," he said at the time.

Romney's comments at the Monday fundraiser will be open to a small group of reporters. A Romney spokesman previously said the campaign would block media coverage, which is customarily allowed at events in public spaces.

News from © The Associated Press, 2012
The Associated Press

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