(Photo: AP Images / Stephan Savoia)
Sen. John McCain is among the Republicans who are supporting Mitt Romney's planned visit to Israel amid Democrats' call for the presidential candidate to stay closer to home in the face of a high unemployment rate in the United States.
"I really think it is important that Romney go to Israel, particularly, since these are the most very dangerous times," McCain said on CBS' "Face the Nation" Sunday.
"The talks with Iran predictably have failed, and we are facing what could be a serious crisis between Israel and Iran, so I strongly support that," the Arizona senator explained.
While the itinerary is yet to be finalized, the former Massachusetts governor is expected to attend the opening ceremonies of the Olympics in London on July 27 and then leave for Israel, where he plans to meet Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Shimon Peres. He may also meet leaders of Israel's opposition Labor Party as well as Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad.
However, President Barack Obama, who visited Israel only during his presidential campaign in 2008 and is criticized by Republicans for not doing enough to back the American ally facing threats from Iran, is not happy with his rival's planned visit.
"Gov. Romney has said he would do the opposite of what President Obama has done in our relations with Israel. Now he must specify how," Obama spokesman Ben LaBolt said in a statement. "Does that mean he would reverse President Obama's policies of sending Israel the largest security assistance packages in history?" he asked. "Does it mean he would let Israel stand alone at the United Nations, or that he would stop funding the Iron Dome system? Does it mean he would abandon the coalition working together to confront Iran's nuclear ambitions?"
Democrats have also criticized Romney for holidaying with his family in Wolfeboro, N.H., when the Labor Department's report for June shows that joblessness in the country remains as high as 8.2 percent. Romney should stay closer to home, they argue.
McCain responded to the criticism, saying, "You know, it's hard for me to say what a presidential nominee should or shouldn't do." But he added that "those decisions are thought through."
Iowa Rep. Steve King, a Republican, agrees with McCain. "It's a very good idea, but strike the right tone," The Hill quoted him as saying. "Do not utter Barack Obama's name with regard to policy in Israel," he suggested. "He can go there and reiterate his record, build some confidence in the Israeli people and send a message to Americans [about] what kind of a relationship he would have and what kind of policy he would have toward Israel."
"It's not just a political thing, it's the right thing to do," said Republican Rep. Allen West from Florida. "I think the most important title the president has is commander in chief, and you need to be able to go out there to some of those critical areas."
Texas Rep. Pete Sessions, chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, seconded West. "It would be a good visit for him [Romney]," he was quoted as saying.