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July 27th, 2012
10:33 PM ET

What's at stake for Romney in Israel

By Tom Foreman and Eric Marrapodi, CNN

(CNN)—Mitt Romney will be glad handing and photo opping in Israel until Monday during the second leg of the presumptive GOP nominee's international campaign trip.

It is unmistakably aimed, in part, at a traditional Democratic voting bloc: Jewish Americans who are politically active in fundraising, campaigning and voting.

"I think Mitt Romney is going to Israel certainly to court the Jewish vote," said Randall Balmer, the chairman of the religion department at Dartmouth College and author of "God in the White House."

"It's definitely sending a message that Israel is important for Romney, that he, he has warm feelings about Israel, that he cares about Israel," said Nathan Guttman, a Washington correspondent for the Jewish Daily Forward. "It's sort of important for this kind of a Jewish electorate. But again, we should keep in mind that this is the minority of Jewish voters."

He added, "Most of them are Obama voters to start with; they won't be swayed by it; they don't really care much."

But Romney may have an even larger voting bloc in mind during his trip.

"The constituency he wants to impress is the evangelicals, people who have an unequivocal support for Israel," Balmer said. "This is the constituency that was quite suspicious of him in the course of the primaries, and in may ways he hasn't fully won them over."

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Meanwhile, President Obama appears to be trying to undercut the impact of the visit with either faction of the Jewish vote.

The White House released another $70-million in military aid for Israel on Friday, saying it underlines the president's "unshakeable commitment" to that American ally.

Much has been made over perceived chilly relations between the Obama administration and the current administration in Israel.

The president won the vast majority of votes by Jewish Americans in 2008. A recent Gallup Daily tracking poll showed registered Jewish voters preferred Obama 68% to 25% over Romney.

Several conservative activists have told CNN that Romney's trip to Israel is an important step in trying to strengthen his support among evangelicals and conservatives. The activists say that the trip will help reassure them about the former governor of Massachusetts.

Romney has struggled to win over many social conservatives who felt that his past positions on social issues were too liberal and many evangelicals who raised theological concerns over Romney's membership in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

Countless Christian evangelicals are indeed staunch supporters of Israel, citing a Biblical kinship with the Jewish nation.

Their interest in Israel's well-being has motivated a number of Republican contenders to visit the Holy Land and speak out for Israeli rights.

One key group is Christians United for Israel, which has more than a million members and politically conservative leaders who have expressed disappointment over Obama's sometimes tense relationship with Israel.

"American Christians, Americans in general, are going to want to see Governor Romney treat Israel and treat Prime Minister Netanyahu with a respect and an appreciation," said Christian United for Israel's Executive Director David Brog. "Many of us feel (that respect) has not been present, has been lacking in the current administration."

"Unlike other issues, this issue is still in play," Brog continued. "When it comes to the issue of foreign policy, and when it come to the issue of how a president will deal with our ally Israel and our struggle with radical Islam, people are still waiting for information, minds are still open. And this is where governor can influence voters and pick up significant support."

Some Christians, known as Christian Zionists, believe that the Jews' return to Israel, which became a Jewish state in 1948, is a sign of the approaching Rapture, when the righteous will ascend to heaven while others are left behind.

Background: Mideast action at U.N. casts spotlight on Christian Zionism

The Rapture, many evangelicals believe, will usher in an apocalyptic period that will culminate in Jesus' return. Some Christians believe that keeping Israel in Jewish hands will help expedite that scenario.

Activists, academics and religious believers disagree about how such apocalyptic thinking may affect Christian support for Israel.

Many other Christians and Jews see such a scenario as a radical interpretation of scripture. Brog dismisses the notion that theology about the end times could boost support of Israel. "This is simply one of those urban myths," he said.

Still, it all raises the stakes on Romney's Israeli visit; making it clear this trip will be closely watched by American voters on both the left and the right.

CNN's Dan Gilgoff and Kevin Bohn contributed to this report.

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Filed under: Belief • Christianity • Israel • Judaism • TV-The Situation Room

soundoff (761 Responses)
  1. TomGI

    "I think Mitt Romney is going to Israel certainly to court the Jewish vote," said Randall Balmer.

    Going to Israel to court the Jewish vote in America?

    August 2, 2012 at 5:26 pm |
  2. Andrew

    [Spied this fascinating Google tidbit about a leading Christian Zionist.]

    THE MOODY ERWIN LUTZER

    by G. W. Rockwell

    Pastor Erwin Lutzer at the famous Moody Church in Chicago is an outstanding preacher. But he can be moody at times – rapture moody.
    Take July 29, 2012 for example. His "Moody Church Hour" sermon that day on "Philadelphia" (one of Revelation's seven churches) included the following:
    "It is His coming, the rapture, that would keep the church from the hour of trial [a.k.a. the great tribulation] that is coming upon the whole earth. And isn't it interesting? He does not say 'I will keep you through the hour of trial but rather I will keep you out of – that's what the text [Rev. 3:10] says – I will keep you out of the hour of trial that is coming upon the whole earth.
    "There is of course a disagreement as to whether or not we will go through the tribulation, or whether or not we will be raptured ahead of time, and we don't know all the details until it happens. But wouldn't it be wonderful if when we are going up in the sky we could look at all of those posttribbers and say with a smile 'I told you it was so'? Wouldn't that be wonderful to be able to do that?"
    The congregation immediately applauded.
    Note that Lutzer twice used the word "wonderful" when asking his audience how wonderful it would be to use spiteful pride against the only "rapture" view found in all theology books and organized churches before the year 1830: the posttribulation view!
    On the "Moody Church Hour" web site the same day (July 29) Lutzer wrote that "great benefit was derived from John Stott's book WHAT CHRIST THINKS OF THE CHURCH when these messages [on Revelation's seven churches] were prepared."
    Incredibly, the Stott that Lutzer leaned on disagrees completely with Lutzer. The same Stott book, p. 104, says this: "He would not spare them from the suffering [Rev. 3:10]; but He would uphold them in it."
    It would be wonderful if Erwin Lutzer would visit Google and type in "Famous Rapture Watchers" and "Famous Rapture Watchers (Addendum)." Not only would he spot the very same Stott quote, but in the same summaries he would also discover that all of the greatest Greek New Testament scholars of all time have uniformly viewed Rev. 3:10 (the most important "proof text" for pretribbers) as teaching "preservation through" and not "escaping beforehand"! ("Pretrib Rapture Dishonesty" is another informative Google article.)
    One wonders what will have to happen to change the Moody pastor's mood.

    August 2, 2012 at 12:10 am |
  3. neil

    Help us save the jobs of 5 people

    http://www.indiegogo.com/save-our-jobs

    Please help

    July 31, 2012 at 12:36 am |
  4. Orwell prefers Guyana punch

    Answer-–> CAMPAIGN MONEY AND INSTANT FOREIGN POLICY CAJONES

    July 30, 2012 at 7:36 pm |
  5. Don

    This guys says the dumbest things. He is not the President so I have no idea why people are even meeting with him. He will also never be elected as President unless he shuts up and brings our jobs back and closes is over seas accounts. LOL.

    July 30, 2012 at 5:50 pm |
    • Thinker22

      I suppose that you've never met any human being in your entire life. After all, you're not a President...

      July 30, 2012 at 5:54 pm |
  6. freeme10

    So far this campaign, Romney has only provided small, insignificant ideas. Probably best highlighted by this recent idea of moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv. Complain about the current president all you want, but you need to have ideas that have the chance of making a difference.

    July 30, 2012 at 9:54 am |
  7. Nietodarwin

    Religion is a by-product of our evolution throughout all cultures that is not beneficial to our survival as a species.

    July 30, 2012 at 9:17 am |
    • Thinker22

      But of course! Look how prosperous the nations where religion was or is not allowed are. North Korea is a perfect example is not it?

      July 30, 2012 at 5:57 pm |
  8. Prof M H Settelen

    One would think that a Christian Prince from a church in Idaho would make a pilgrimage to the Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem, now a World Heritage site & the Church of the Holy Sepulchre*, Jerusalem, built by the Christian Prince, Constantine!
    *soon to be WHS

    July 30, 2012 at 9:08 am |
    • Thinker22

      I'm afraid that you should take a Geography 101 again, "Prof". You will be amazed to discover that the "Christian Prince, Constantine" built Constantinople (now it's called Istanbul) and that Jerusalem is a TOTALLY DIFFERENT CITY.

      July 30, 2012 at 6:00 pm |
    • Thinker22

      The Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem was indeed established by Constantine after his mother marked the place as the burial place of Jesus.

      July 30, 2012 at 6:05 pm |
  9. trex

    ........Come on, it WAS FUNNY when Mitt brought a BUCKET OF FISH to the WAILING WALL..................................ya know,.................ta feed the WHALES.....................................

    July 30, 2012 at 7:58 am |
  10. Chris Kilham

    Mitt Romney, the banker's candidate, will do absolutely ANYTHING to get elected, having no actual values of his own. Beware, America- you really could wind up with this insincere, incapable, job-killing moron for a president. Remember, he lasted exactly one term as a governor. Don't be fooled- Mitt is a TOOL.

    July 30, 2012 at 7:27 am |
    • Thinker22

      Well, I remember Obama and how he promised different things to different people prior to elections...

      July 30, 2012 at 6:06 pm |
  11. nate

    This is less about pandering to Jews and more pandering to the religious right-wing. After centuries of accusing the Jews of killing their savior Jesus Christ, about 20 years ago they changed their view to consider Israel the protector of the biblical sites from infidels. Jews in America generally don't buy into the political positions ultra orthodox Israelis.

    July 30, 2012 at 5:34 am |
    • Moby Schtick

      Precisely. Great post.

      July 30, 2012 at 12:39 pm |
    • Thinker22

      "Jews in America generally don't buy into the political positions ultra orthodox Israelis."

      This is true about the Jews in Israel as well.

      July 30, 2012 at 6:08 pm |
  12. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things:

    July 30, 2012 at 4:26 am |
    • Jesus

      Prayer does not; you are such a LIAR. You have NO proof it changes anything! A great example of prayer proven not to work is the Christians in jail because prayer didn't work and their children died. For example: Susan Grady, who relied on prayer to heal her son. Nine-year-old Aaron Grady died and Susan Grady was arrested.

      An article in the Journal of Pediatrics examined the deaths of 172 children from families who relied upon faith healing from 1975 to 1995. They concluded that four out of five ill children, who died under the care of faith healers or being left to prayer only, would most likely have survived if they had received medical care.

      The statistical studies from the nineteenth century and the three CCU studies on prayer are quite consistent with the fact that humanity is wasting a huge amount of time on a procedure that simply doesn’t work. Nonetheless, faith in prayer is so pervasive and deeply rooted, you can be sure believers will continue to devise future studies in a desperate effort to confirm their beliefs!^

      July 30, 2012 at 10:27 am |
  13. Reality

    Just read that Romney wants Israel's capital to be in Jerusalem. And I was considering voting for him??? Not anymore!!

    Once again, a solution I read on this blog some years ago, "The five million Jews in Israel should move to the USA and the 3 million Muslims in the USA should move to Israel. Problem solved."

    July 30, 2012 at 12:30 am |
    • Thinker22

      The capital of Israel IS in Jerusalem do you like it or not, genius.

      July 30, 2012 at 6:09 pm |
    • Thinker22

      "The five million Jews in Israel should move to the USA and the 3 million Muslims in the USA should move to Israel. Problem solved."

      Hardly, my friend. Do you REALLY believe that moving 3 Million American Muslims to the place where Israel is located will cause militant Muslims all over the world to become peaceful?

      July 30, 2012 at 6:11 pm |
    • Reality

      "Most countries of the world do not recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital. Many do not recognize it as a city that is properly Israel's. Many UN member states formally adhere to the United Nations proposal that Jerusalem should have an international status."

      And making all of Israel the new Palestine, free of Jews, would remove the excuses Muslims use as a pretext for their koran- driven violence against infidels. And as per the Mormons, did not Lehi and Jesus bring the new Jerusalem to the Americas?

      "Mormon, the author of the record and one of the last of the prophets of ancient America, had buried the plates there in that hill centuries before. They described how Lehi, a prophet who had lived in Jerusalem some six hundred years before the birth of Christ, had sailed with a small group of people from the Mediterranean all the way to the American continent.

      After his resurrection in Jerusalem, Jesus Christ had appeared here in the Americas, preaching the Gospel to his "sheep of another fold." (aka the Mormons)

      Read more: http://www.answers.com/topic/church-of-jesus-christ-of-latter-day-saints#ixzz22Ajgnjow

      July 31, 2012 at 12:47 am |
    • Thinker22

      Reality... It's up to Israel to decide which city is its capital located in, not to other countries. Would France move its capital from Paris in case Zambia decided that the French capital should be in Marcel? Regarding removal of the "excuse" for Islamic violence... If I were you I would be ashamed to be THAT naive. Muslims were violent for more than 1000 years PRIOR to Israel. Elimination of the Jewish State in response to Islamic violence will only prove to them that violence works and such "great victory" for Islam will encourage them to continue their Holy War against the infidels finding other "excuses" as required.

      July 31, 2012 at 5:48 am |
    • Reality

      3. Mohammed was an illiterate, womanizing, lust and greed-driven, warmongering, hallucinating Arab, who also had embellishing/hallucinating/plagiarizing scribal biographers who not only added "angels" and flying chariots to the koran but also a militaristic agenda to support the plundering and looting of the lands of non-believers.

      This agenda continues as shown by the ma-ssacre in Mumbai, the as-sas-sinations of Bhutto and Theo Van Gogh, the conduct of the seven Muslim doctors in the UK, the 9/11 terrorists, the 24/7 Sunni suicide/roadside/market/mosque bombers, the 24/7 Shiite suicide/roadside/market/mosque bombers, the Islamic bombers of the trains in the UK and Spain, the Bali crazies, the Kenya crazies, the Pakistani “koranics”, the Palestine suicide bombers/rocketeers, the Lebanese nutcases, the Taliban nut jobs, the Ft. Hood follower of the koran, and the Filipino “koranics”.

      And who funds this muck and stench of terror? The warmongering, Islamic, Shiite terror and torture theocracy of Iran aka the Third Axis of Evil and also the Sunni "Wannabees" of Saudi Arabia.

      Current crises:

      The Sunni-Shiite blood feud and the warmongering, womanizing (11 wives), hallucinating founder.

      (And if the all the US Muslims would move to Israel and the Jews of Israel would move to the USA, we would no longer be giving Israel $4 billion/yr for protection of said state built on the myths of both religions. )

      July 31, 2012 at 8:53 am |
    • Thinker23

      Reality: "...making all of Israel the new Palestine, free of Jews, would remove the excuses Muslims use as a pretext for their koran- driven violence against infidels".

      Reality several hours later: " This agenda continues as shown by the ma-ssacre in Mumbai, the as-sas-sinations of Bhutto and Theo Van Gogh, the conduct of the seven Muslim doctors in the UK, the 9/11 terrorists, the 24/7 Sunni suicide/roadside/market/mosque bombers, the 24/7 Shiite suicide/roadside/market/mosque bombers, the Islamic bombers of the trains in the UK and Spain, the Bali crazies, the Kenya crazies, the Pakistani “koranics”, the Palestine suicide bombers/rocketeers, the Lebanese nutcases, the Taliban nut jobs, the Ft. Hood follower of the koran, and the Filipino “koranics”."

      Don't you think that you're contradicting yourself, genius?

      July 31, 2012 at 12:30 pm |
  14. david

    Simple – Romney owes the origin of the entire Bood of Mormon story to an airtight submarine of Jews who arrived in Central American and were greeted by Jesus. And the Jews were then considered genetic cousins to the Native People of the Americas (Navajo, Hopi, etc.) Bottom line: Romney really believes that he and the Jews are really kin. A bit of a stretch, but the Mormons love this stuff.

    July 29, 2012 at 11:24 pm |
  15. justina

    of course he will be our next president! He is a business man,and wealthy..just like most americans.The poor minorities like our current president will back in their mundane existence.

    July 29, 2012 at 10:18 pm |
  16. Name*peter opie

    I think romney is very unprofessioal & ignorant of world politics his porfamance in the UK was pathatic god help the world if he becomes president .

    July 29, 2012 at 9:23 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.