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Palin visits Israel as she mulls presidential run

By the CNN Wire Staff
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Sarah Palin in the Holy Land
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Palin dines with Israel's prime minister Monday
  • Palin's tour brings her to India and Israel
  • Other potential GOP candidates have made the trip to Israel in recent months
  • Her international trek could prove to be a key component in a potential 2012 presidential bid

Jerusalem (CNN) -- Following in the footsteps of several other Republicans considering a presidential bid, Sarah Palin was in Jerusalem Monday to meet with Israeli leaders.

"It feels wonderful and beautiful," Palin said during a nighttime visit to Jerusalem's Western Wall.

"And happy Purim," she said referring to the Jewish holiday. "Absolutely beautiful and overwhelming to see and touch the cornerstone of our faith."

Much of her two-day itinerary is filled with sightseeing, but she was scheduled for a Monday night dinner with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. No meetings are scheduled with either Palestinian or Israeli opposition officials.

"As the world confronts sweeping changes and new realities, I look forward to meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu to discuss the key issues facing his country, our ally Israel," Palin said in a message posted on her political action committee's website.

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Palin's office insisted that her Israel visit was private and not to expect any public discussion of regional policy.

Her comments to reporters after the Western Wall visit Sunday night were filled with platitudes.

"I am so thankful to get to be here and very thankful to know that the American-Israel link connection will grow and strengthen as we seek peace," Palin said.

Other potential GOP candidates to visit Israel in recent months include Mitt Romney, Haley Barbour, and Mike Huckabee.

The former Alaska governor began her trip in India -- another key U.S. ally in the region -- where she slammed the Obama administration for "dithering on Libya."

On Saturday, Palin delivered the keynote address at the India Today Conclave, an annual gathering of India's elite including business leaders, politicians and academics. It is sponsored by an Indian Communications company and named for the India Today magazine.

The potential presidential candidate addressed the importance of energy and the influence of India's relationship with the United States in prepared remarks titled "My Vision of America."

But when she sat down for the question-and-answer session with the editor-in-chief of India Today, Aroon Purie, her attention turned to topics of a presidential nature.

On Libya she said, "It would have been different." Remarking that the U.S. has a tradition of not criticizing the president's foreign policy while on "foreign soil," she continued, "Certainly, there would have been more decisiveness, more commitment to those that are freedom fighters, that they know that America is on their side."

"There would have been more decisiveness, less dithering," Palin stated.

Her international trek could prove to be a key component in any 2012 presidential bid.

"She has to be able to say in case she hops in she went through the motions like the other guys," GOP consultant Ford O'Connell, who worked on the McCain-Palin campaign in 2008, told CNN.

Palin's trip is expected to help her bolster her foreign policy credentials. O'Connell said that issue is probably Palin's weakest, pointing out with the recent events in Japan, Libya and Egypt.

"Foreign policy is moving up the ladder. If you want to be president, you have to have a good understanding of the global economy in the 21st century" as well as these issues, he said.

Such a trip, as the one she is undertaking, is a must for someone considering a run, he said. "If she doesn't do it, it will hurt her," he said.

As she has for the past months, Palin continues to say she is "contemplating" a presidential run.

The former Alaska governor enjoys large support among Republicans and her speeches draw large crowds, but her disapproval numbers among GOP voters continue to rise. There is mixed opinion among many unaligned Republican consultants on whether she will end up actually launching a bid for the nomination.

She visited the key early voting states of Iowa and South Carolina last year during her book tour and recently hired a political veteran as chief of staff for her political action committee. She is not known however to have taken any other concrete steps that might indicate a possible campaign.

CNN's Kevin Flower, Kevin Bohn and Rebecca Stewart contributed to this report.

 
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