Romney and Netanyahu in January 2010 (Amos BenGershom/GPO via Getty Images)Mitt Romney will travel to Israel later this summer to visit with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other top officials in the region.
The trip has not been formally announced by the Romney campaign, but an aide to the GOP nominee confirmed the trip, which was first reported by the New York Times. The paper cited an aide to Netanyahu.
Romney is expected to meet with Salam Fayyad, the prime minister of the Palestinian Authority, as well as U.S. officials in the region, including Ambassador Daniel Shapiro. The Times also reported that Romney will hold a public event during his two-day visit there, but the campaign declined to comment on specifics of the trip.
It will be Romney's fourth trip to Israel—and his third official sit-down with Netanyahu, who previously crossed paths with Romney when they both worked at the Boston Consulting Group in 1976. Last year, Romney met with the Israeli prime minister and other officials during a three-day visit to the country, as part of a weeklong tour of the Middle East that was aimed at burnishing his foreign policy credentials. The two met again in March in Washington.
While Romney aides declined to comment on the timing of the trip, it is likely to be tacked on to Romney's trip to the Summer Olympics in London later this month. While in London, a source close to the GOP nominee tells Yahoo News, Romney is also expected to meet with other foreign leaders in town to attend the game's opening ceremonies.
The Romney campaign is understandably cautious about the optics of Romney's overseas jaunt. In 2008, Republicans mocked then-candidate Barack Obama for heading overseas during the heat of the presidential campaign.
Romney's trip is likely to put pressure on the GOP nominee to explain the intricacies of his foreign policy as it relates to the Middle East and how he would differ from Obama's approach.
Romney has so far stayed away from specifics about how he would handle the region, preferring instead to keep the focus of the campaign on the economy—an issue aides believe offers Romney a better contrast with Obama.
But Romney has repeatedly cast himself as more pro-Israel than Obama, describing the nation as the U.S.'s "best ally" in the Middle East. Among other things, Romney has come out strongly against a nuclear Iran--which is viewed as a major threat by the Israeli government. And in an interview with Fox News host Sean Hannity earlier this year, Romney accused Obama of throwing Israel "under the bus" during the Middle East peace process.