Potential Republican VP candidate meets Israel’s top leaders


WASHINGTON (JTA) — Sen. Rob Portman, reportedly on the short list for the Republican vice presidential nomination, met in Israel with its top leaders.

The Ohio Republican, traveling during the Memorial Day recess, met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak on Thursday.

Portman has been touted as a likely contender to be Mitt Romney’s choice as running mate in the fall election.

The U.S. Trade Representative under President George W. Bush and a former member of the U.S. House of Representatives, Portman has had a long and close relationship with Ohio’s Jewish community.

The meetings with Barak and Netanyahu focused on the threat posed by a nuclear Iran and the potential challenges facing the region, particularly with humanitarian crisis in Syria. 

Following his meeting with Barak, Portman highlighted the significance of the security cooperation between Israel and the United States

“U.S.-Israeli security cooperation is one of our most valued and important arrangements, and given the volatility in the region, one of our most significant,” Portman said. 

During his trip this week, Portman, a member of the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee, visited a battery of the Iron Dome missile shield and noted the importance of the system in protecting Israel from terrorist rocket and mortars. 

“The Iron Dome system is a proven way for Israel to defend its people from hostile threats,” Portman said in a press statement.  “This cooperative effort between our two governments will also help enhance U.S. missile defense capabilities.” 

The Obama administration has asked Congress for $70 million to seed additional Iron Dome batteries. Legislation currently under consideration would ultimately budget $680 million for additional batteries.

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