Almost everything that happens in the months
before a presidential election is seen through a political lens, and
President Obama's move on Friday to shore up Israel's
security was no exception.
Obama signed into law the US-Israel Enhanced Security Cooperation Act of 2012 and released 70 million dollars for Israel's Iron Dome defence system just days before his Republican rival Mitt Romney was to arrive in Israel as part of his first foreign-policy tour.
In an unusual public fanfare for Obama in a bill-signing in recent years, Obama used five pens. The ceremony included Lee Rosenberg, chairman of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), Israel's most influential lobbying group in the US.
"As many of you know, I have made it a top priority for my administration to deepen cooperation with Israel across the whole spectrum of security issues - intelligence, military, technology," Obama said.
Romney, who has hit Obama hard for not standing by Israel, is expected in Israel on Sunday, where he is to meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The two men have a decades-long friendship dating back to their time as young consultants in Boston in the 1970s.
The bipartisan Israel bill passed the Senate June 29 and the House of Representatives on July 17, in a voice vote of rare cooperation that defied two years of legislative gridlock in Washington.
The White House dismissed suggestions by reporters that Friday's bill-signing was politically motivated.
"The president has been travelling. So as is normally the case, he signs a bill (that he supports) when he gets it from Congress," spokesman Jay Carney said.
Carney said the 70 million dollars for the Iron Dome, the missile defence system protecting Israel, had been requested by the White House in May for transfer to Israel. In 2011, Obama secured 205 million dollars for Israel's short-range rocket defence system which as recently as June shot down five Russian-type Grad missiles launched from Gaza.
In the White House fact sheet that accompanied Obama's bill-signing, the administration noted that Netanyahu said earlier this year that security cooperation between the US and Israel had been "unprecedented" under Obama.
It also noted Israel's Defence Minister Ehud Barak's description of the security ties between Israel and the Obama administration as "at the highest level they have ever been."
In the run-up to the November 6 elections, a wealthy key Jewish backer of Romney is making a bid to dissuade Jewish voters, who normally strongly support Democrats, to vote for the Republican challenger.
Sheldon Adelson, a Las Vegas casino magnate, has vowed to spend as much as 100 million dollars to defeat Obama. He is using a new group, the Republican Jewish Coalition, to funnel money through a so-called "super PAC" that is exempt from normal limits on political donations, The New York Times recently reported.
Obama captured 74 per cent of the Jewish vote in 2008. But a Gallup poll in June showed that his Jewish support had dropped by nearly 10 percentage points.
But with Obama and Romney nearly neck and neck in the race, every constituency will count.
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