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Mitt Romney to visit Israel this summer

Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, seen on screen, speaks before the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), via satellite in Washington, Tuesday, March 6, 2012. AP Photo/Charles Dharapak
(CBS News) During the height of the presidential campaign, Mitt Romney will visit Israel this summer and meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, CBS News has confirmed. This will be Romney's fourth visit to Israel but first of the 2012 campaign cycle.

Romney has been highly critical of President Obama's policy toward Israel, saying at this year's American Israel Political Action Committee conference, that the Obama administration "has distanced itself from Israel and warmed to the Palestinian cause."

Wealthy casino mogul and Republican donor, Sheldon Adelson, has said that Israel is "his passion in life."  Romney's announcement comes just a couple of weeks after Adelson, who originally backed Newt Gingrich in the Republican primary, committed $10 million to pro-Romney super PAC Restore Our Future. Gingrich had suggested during the primaries that Adelson was supporting him largely over his position on Israel.

President Obama visited Israel during his 2008 campaign, where he met with Mr. Netanyahu, who was leader of the Likud Party, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, but the president has not visited the country since he was elected. Mr. Netanyahu has visited the White House seven times and the two have met twice at the United Nations. According CBS News Radio White House Correspondent Mark Knoller, Presidents Nixon, Carter, and Clinton all visited Israel during their first terms. Mr. Obama and Netanyahu are believed to have a frosty relationship, though it appears to have thawed somewhat recently.

Romney has called Netanyahu an "old friend" and pledged to "do the opposite" as Mr. Obama on Israel. The New York Times, which first reported the planned trip, reports that Romney is "also expected to meet with Salam Fayyad, the prime minister of the Palestinian Authority; President Shimon Peres of Israel; the American ambassador, Daniel B. Shapiro; and leaders of the opposition Labor Party leaders in Jerusalem."

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