A campaign policy fact sheet released last week, for example, was notable for its cautious tone on issues involving Israel. It didn't suggest, for instance, that Romney would depart from the historical U.S. opposition to Israeli settlements in the West Bank. (By most accounts, the Middle East peace process is dead and whomever is elected this fall is unlikely to be able to resuscitate it in the coming term.)
On the issue of when military action might be required to stop Iran from building a nuclear bomb, Obama has split with the Israeli leadership. U.S. officials say they would intervene when Tehran actually starts assembling a weapon; Israeli leaders say it should be stopped as soon as they acquire the capability to build one, a point likely to come much earlier.
But both Obama and Romney have said that all options for dealing with Iran, including military action, are on the table. And one Romney advisor said recently that as president, the Republican would want to first continue diplomatic efforts on the Iran nuclear issue before embarking on a risky military solution.
Absent clear policy distinctions, one of the biggest contrasts between Obama and Romney has been over their relationships with Netanyahu — a drama likely to capture attention during Romney's visit.
In a Republican presidential debate in Iowa in December, Romney rapped rival Newt Gingrich for a controversial remark that the Palestinians were "an invented people" — chiding Gingrich for getting "out ahead of" Israeli leaders, something he argued that Obama also had done.
"We let the Israeli leadership describe what they believe the right course is going forward," he said. Before making remarks as Gingrich had, Romney said he would "get on the phone to my friend Bibi Netanyahu and say: 'Would it help if I said this? What would you like me to do?'"
Romney's deference to Netanyahu in that debate raised eyebrows, but Netanyahu has insisted that he is not taking sides in the U.S. presidential race.
Reston reported from London and Richter from Washington. Times staff writer Robin Abcarian in Los Angeles also contributed to this report.