The PJ Tatler

Portman Goes Where No President Obama has Gone Before

A potential pick for Mitt Romney’s No. 2 is spending the Senate recess in Israel, touring an Iron Dome battery in southern Israel today that protects the country from rockets and short-range missiles and meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

“The Iron Dome system is a proven way for Israel to defend its people from hostile threats,” said Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), who stressed that he fought for additional funding for the program during the Senate’s markup of the defense reauthorization bill. “This cooperative effort between our two governments will also help enhance U.S. missile defense capabilities.”

Portman is a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, but is mostly known for his business acumen as former OMB director and U.S. trade representative.

Barack Obama has never been to Israel as president.

Last week, the Senate Armed Services Committee awarded $210 million for joint U.S.-Israeli cooperative missile defense programs and procurement of additional Iron Dome batteries as part of the 2013 National Defense Authorization Act. As of now, there are three operational Iron Dome batteries, with another on its way. However, said Portman’s office, Israel estimates it will need 10-15 to cover its population centers.

“It was encouraging to see firsthand how this innovative technology is protecting lives and  significantly diminishing the effectiveness of a tool terrorists use to inflict harm and escalate violence,” Portman said.

Portman said he and Netanyahu discussed the Iranian nuclear threat and the crisis in Syria.

“This past year has been very turbulent for the Middle East, and my conversation with Prime Minister Netanyahu strengthened my belief that we need to remain vigilant in our support of our critical ally,” the senator said.

“I also enjoyed hearing from Prime Minister Netanyahu on the state of the Israeli economy, which grew 4.8 percent in 2011. It was instructive to learn how  the Israeli government and the private sector are working hard to develop newly discovered natural gas reserves in the eastern Mediterranean, as we are doing in Ohio with shale oil and gas.”