Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney announced he intended to visit Israel before the November presidential election, showing his clear intention of wooing Israel and the Jewish vote in the US.
Such visit may have been viewed as benign, even constructive, had Romney included other countries in the region in his itinerary, but choosing Israel alone makes one wonder at the distance presidential candidates in the US need — or are willing — to go to be in Israel’s good graces.
To be sure, US candidates for the highest post in the country need to get abroad and get a balanced view of events and issues, particularly in conflict zones, and chiefly in the Middle East. That would both help them get familiarised with problems by listening to all sides to conflicts and their perspectives on crises, and send a reassuring message that the leadership of the superpower will not forgo the plight of nations embroiled in serious problems.
By listening to one side only, Romney proves unfair and his visit counterproductive.
Israel’s demands of the US are well-known and neither Romney nor President Barack Obama, who is seeking another term in the White House, needs to know more to get a better grasp of the prime Middle Eastern conflict.
A fairer move, involving visits to several countries in the region, would be all the more important in view of the continued erosion of the US standing and popularity in the Middle East and of Washington’s wavering on the Palestinian case with the election of every new president.
The Arab side has been witnessing a weakening of the US resolve over the illegal Jewish settlements, the all but forgotten UN Security Council Resolution 242 and the more recent Quartet and Arab peace plans, which remain unimplemented.
Romney might think that by showing support to Israel and ignoring the rights of the Palestinians he stands a better chance to win the presidential election, but that only proves political myopia and total disregard for the Arab vote in the US.
And that is no sign of leadership.