JERUSALEM — Former Alaska governor Sarah Palin visited Jerusalem on Sunday and Monday, following in the footsteps of past U.S. presidential candidates who made the requisite pilgrimage to Israel in advance of their bid for the highest political office.
“I’m thankful to be able to travel to Israel on my way back to the U.S.,” Palin said in a statement posted on her Web site as she arrived in Israel from India. “As the world confronts sweeping changes and new realities, I look forward to meeting with Prime Minister [Binyamin] Netanyahu to discuss the key issues facing his country, our ally Israel.”
Shortly after landing at Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion Airport on Sunday afternoon — where Palin, accompanied by husband Todd, was mobbed by Israeli paparazzi — Palin went first to one of Judaism’s most revered sites, the Western Wall. She also visited the adjacent tunnels whose excavations have provoked Palestinian protests in the past because of their proximity to the Temple Mount, upon which today sits the Dome of the Rock, one of Islam’s holiest shrines. On Monday, she was due to take a private tour of the Christian Quarter of the Old City before having a private dinner with Netanyahu at his official residence in Jerusalem.
“She was very connected and touched to be at the Wall,” deputy Knesset speaker Danny Danon, who accompanied her on her visit Sunday night, said in an interview.
“I was able to explain to her about the issues we have with the Palestinians regarding the control of the Temple Mount,” Danon, a member of Netanyahu’s Likud party, continued. “At one point she asked why we are being so apologetic about all those issues because I told her after we opened the tunnels there were a lot of riots.”
At the end of her visit to the Western Wall, Palin, who says she keeps an Israeli flag on her desk, was blessed by the site’s chief rabbi.
Danon, who hosted another potential 2012 Republican presidential candidate and Fox News commentator, Mike Huckabee, on a visit to Jerusalem in January, has been sharply critical of President Obama for not visiting Israel since becoming president. But Obama did visit Israel as a candidate in July 2008, as then-Gov. George W. Bush did in December 1998.