The window of opportunity for President Obama to visit Israel is closing and along with it a chance to repair relations with a key U.S. ally, observers said.
Questions about Obama's commitment to Israel arise from the perception that he has been too tough on Israel in pursuit of peace in the Middle East, peaking this spring when he called on Israel to adopt the country's pre-1967 borders as a starting point for peace talks with the Palestinians, prompting criticism from Republicans and Democrats.
"It is an error," said former New York Mayor Ed Koch, a critic of Obama's record on Israel but who reconciled with Obama and agreed to support his re-election. Koch told Politico in an article published Monday, "If he didn't go this year and he didn't go next year, it would result in an even greater reduction in Jewish support."
The White House considered a summer trip to Israel, said former Rep. Robert Wexler, D-Fla., a lead liaison for the Obama campaign with the Jewish community, but domestic issues pushed aside that possibility.
Obama will attend the Group of 20 conference Thursday in France and next week will leave for a nine-day trip to Hawaii, Indonesia and Australia.
The White House would like to plan a trip for a time when Obama could advance the peace process, sources told Politico. Once 2012 arrives, a presidential trip to Israel could be seen as a political move.
"For other presidents it might have been a less glaring omission than for a president who chose to make these issues a centerpiece of his foreign policy and has had such a difficult time showing that his 'unique approach' has succeeded at all, if not set back the prospects for peace," said Joshua Block, a Progressive Policy Institute senior fellow and former American Israel Public Affairs Committee spokesman. "In many ways, he is in a greater need of going to Israel."
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