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Obama strengthens U.S. ties with Israel prior to Romney's visit

July 27, 2012|By Christi Parsons | This post has been updated, as indicated below.
  • President Obama signs the United States-Israel Enhanced Security Cooperation Act. Looking on in the Oval Office are: Chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations Richard Stone, left; Sen. Barbara Boxer; Howard Friedman, past chairman of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, third form left; Rep. Howard Berman, second from right; and AIPAC Chairman Lee Rosenberg.
President Obama signs the United States-Israel Enhanced Security Cooperation… (Molly Riley / Getty Images )

WASHINGTON -- President Obama signed a measure Friday to strengthen U.S. security ties with Israel, the move coming a day before his Republican rival for the White House is scheduled to meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The bipartisan legislation calls for enhanced cooperation on missile defense and intelligence sharing, as well as for increased Israeli access to advanced weapons.

"In many ways, what this legislation does is bring together all the outstanding cooperation that we have seen really at an unprecedented level between our two countries to underscore our unshakable commitment to Israel's security," Obama told reporters just before he signed the measure.

The president did not talk about Romney at the ceremony, but the event was timed to take place just before the presumed Republican presidential nominee's planned weekend trip to Israel.

Romney has suggested that Obama has undermined the U.S.-Israeli relationship during his term in the White House.

Obama has had a rocky relationship with Netanyahu at times. He upset some supporters of Israel last year when he said negotiations regarding the borders of a Palestinian state should begin with the lines that existed before Israel captured the West Bank and Gaza Strip in 1967.

Although he won 78% of the Jewish vote in the 2008 election, some recent polls suggest that support might be slipping.

Meanwhile, Romney is looking to strengthen his outreach to several constituent groups with his upcoming trip.

He is expected to travel from London to Israel on Saturday, and plans to meet with several leaders, including Netanyahu.

On Friday, Obama said the U.S. commitment to Israel transcends domestic politics.

"I hope that, as I sign this bill, once again everybody understands how committed all of us are -- Republicans and Democrats -- as Americans to our friends in making sure that Israel is safe and secure," he said.

Rep. Howard Berman, (D-Calif.) and Sen. Barbara Boxer, (D-Calif.) both attended the signing ceremony. Boxer said the bill showed Obama was “showing the world the strong U.S.-Israeli relationship – not with words, but with deeds.”

“It’s a very clear and strong manifestation of what has been said a number of times by both parties, over and over again -- the bond between the United States and Israel is unbreakable,” Berman said.

[For the Record, 1:58 p.m. PST  July 27: This post has been updated to include Berman and Boxer's attendance.]

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christi.parsons@latimes.com

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