In a move that could bolster his potential 2016 presidential campaign, retired conservative neurosurgeon Ben Carson took his first trip to Israel to visit the Holy Land and gain a better understanding of the conflicts affecting the Jewish state.
Carson, who left for his trip on Saturday and will stay for one week, has continued a trend of presidential hopefuls who have voyaged to Israel prior to their campaigns in moves thought to improve foreign policy credentials.
Although the rising 63-year-old conservative has not officially announced his candidacy, he told Ed Berliner on Newsmax TV last Friday that it was imperative for his presidential prospects for him to finally make his first trip to Israel so that he can see first-hand the territorial issues of one of America's biggest allies faces.
"As I consider a run, Israel is an extremely important place to have a good pulse on," Carson said. "We've all read a lot about it, we've all heard a lot about it, but if you haven't actually been there, experienced the culture, talked to the people, I think you're always going to have a little bit of a distorted impression."
Carson continued by criticizing the current state of the U.S.-Israeli relations and said that America needs to fully assure that it supports Israel.
"I don't get the impression that Israel feels that we are their solid ally anymore," Carson asserted. "One of the reasons that is so problematic is because if we can't support them, what are our other allies thinking? We have to really think about these ramifications and at some point we have to lead. We have to have an actual foreign policy that is proactive and not just reactive to what's going on."
Other prominent Republicans who are thought to be strongly considering 2016 presidential runs have already made trips to Israel. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla. and Texas Gov. Rick Perry have all visited the Holy Land. President Barack Obama also voyaged there during his campaign in 2008.
While in Israel, Carson is scheduled to visit Jerusalem, talk with religious leaders, and take tours of the Gaza strip and a military base. He will also meet with the head of neurosurgery at Jerusalem's Hadassah Medical Center.
Carson also plans to visit Nazareth and then head north to visit the town of Galilee, Carson's business manager Armstrong Williams wrote in a recent op-ed. Williams added that Carson hopes to visit Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus, which is under Palestinian control, and plans to fly along Israel's borders so that he can better comprehend the conflicts Israel faces with the Hezbollah terrorist group along its border with Lebanon and Hamas terrorists to the south in Gaza.
Williams, who went on the trip as well, also wrote that the trip will likely have a spiritual impact on Carson and Carson's wife, Candy, as they will be able to visit many of the sacred Christian Holy sites.
"Dr. and Ms. Carson are deeply faithful Christians, who I suspect will soon find themselves enveloped by the deep sense of spirituality that is palpable in the air of Israel. They will no doubt be very moved by the experience of touring Israel's capital city of Jerusalem, a city sacred to Jews and Christians," Williams wrote. "There they will walk the same streets traversed by Jesus, gaze upon the Mount of Olives and visit the Western Wall, a retaining structure that is all that remains of the Second Temple, built on the very spot where Abraham nearly sacrificed his son Isaac."
Carson plans to announce by May 1 whether or not he will actually run for president.