JERUSALEM — Mitt Romney’s visit to Israel this weekend has been widely anticipated by American Jew, particularly those upset by President Obama’s decision not to visit the the country in his first term.
But among senior Israeli government and security figures, the visit can best be summed up by the words “So What?”
With the policy differences between the two candidates boiling down to which candidate best expresses his love for Israel, privately Israelis say the public displays of affection is immaterial.
“What’s important for us is policy — and we have little to criticize about what President Obama has done, and what Mitt Romney promises to do,” said one top security official who would only discuss American politics on the condition of anonymity.
Other current and former Israeli officials interviewed by BuzzFeed this week echoed a similar sentiment.
While Romney has accused Obama of allowing “daylight” between the White House and Israeli leaders and pledging to make Israel a stop on his first presidential foreign trip, Israelis say they are flattered by the attention, but don’t see a major difference in the outcome of the election.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s relationship with Obama may at times be icy, but “it works,” said a diplomatic official.
“They don’t have a bad relationship,” the official added. “The relationship works. The issues are big, and they know how to work with each other to get things done. People make too much of the kind of relationship the president and the prime minister have.”
Israelis pointed to bipartisan support for the Iron Dome missile defense system that is protecting Southern Israel from rockets fired from Gaza, as well as Obama’s 100 percent voting record with Israel at the United Nations.
“They both are fighting to show how much they love us,” said a defense official. “This is a good thing for Israel no matter who wins.”
Israelis are quick to point out that the warm welcome Romney is expected to receive would be readily extended to Obama whenever he decides to visit.
“Bipartisan support is a strategic asset for Israel,” said one former defense official. “You will not see anyone in Israel do anything that might damage this bipartisan support. Israel is trying to avoid from being part of the political game.”
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