NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The campaign for the White House is focusing on the Middle East — and the Jewish vote.
On Friday, President Barack Obama signed a bill to increase aid to Israel, on the eve of presumptive Republican challenger Mitt Romney’s trip to that nation, CBS 2’s Marcia Kramer reported.
The president used five pens to sign the new aid bill, hoping that it would be seen as a “sign” of his support, even though his administration has had a rocky relationship with Israel and its leaders.
“I hope as I sign this bill that once again everyone understands how committed all of us are, Republicans and Democrats, as Americans to our friends in making sure Israel is safe and secure,” the president said.
The bill restates the American commitment to supply Israel with arms and planes to defend itself. Its signing comes on the eve of a highly publicized trip to Israel by Romney, who earlier this week criticized the president for hurting America’s relationship with Israel.
“President Obama is fond of lecturing Israel’s leaders,” Romney said.
With his trip to Israel, Romney is hoping to win support of Jewish voters in November. Obama has not visited the country as president.
A tight race like Campaign 2012 could hinge on picking up votes on the margins, like support from Jewish voters in key battleground states like Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania. A Gallup poll in June showed a 10-point drop on the president’s support in the Jewish community compared to the 2008 election.
Many view the actions of Obama and Romney as a sign that Israel will have the support of the next president, whoever it is.
“I’m very happy to have the president and the opposition candidate expressing their support for the U.S.-Israel relationship,” said Malcolm Hoenlein of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.
“The knowledge that the United States is on our side is very important, especially now when we have the Iranian nuclear threat looking from the east. It is critically important,” Israeli Consul General Ido Aharoni said.
In Israel, Romney will deliver a foreign policy speech that, aides said, will send a message that if he is elected he will treat threats to Israel as threats to America.
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