For many presidential hopefuls the road to the White House goes through Israel. Long before the polls closed Tuesday evening on the 2012 election, Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley had booked his flight from BWI to TLV. He leaves the Saturday night after Thanksgiving and tagging along with be Jewish leaders from around his state as well as a number of business and academic figures.
The trip is being billed as a trade mission and thus official business. His 60-70 fellow travelers will be paying their own way.
Texas Gov. George W. Bush made the pre-presidential pilgrimage with Jewish supporters and met Ariel Sharon, who himself was seeking to move to a better job. It was the start of a friendship that served both leaders well.
Four years ago Sen. Barack Obama went to Israel and visited Sderot, the target of Palestinian missiles. It must have made quite an impression because as president he gave full support to Iron Dome and other Israeli anti-missile projects. Although he was widely criticized for not visiting Israel as president, it is worth noting that only Bill Clinton among recent presidents made the trip during his first term. Ronald Reagan didn't go even once in two terms.
This summer Mitt Romney made his pilgrimage and was given the royal treatment by his former Boston Financial colleague, Benjamin Netanyahu, who made no secret of his preference for the Republican in the 2012 presidential race.
O'Malley plans to meet with Prime Minister Netanyahu, President Shimon Peres and other Israeli leaders before going to Jordan for a meeting with King Abdullah and returning to meet Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and others in Ramallah, according to Jewish community officials involved in planning the trip.
This will be O'Malley's third visit to Israel. He first went as mayor of Baltimore and two years ago he went as governor looking to bring business to Maryland. Among the souvenirs O'Malley will be bringing home from this trip will be pictures of him at the Western Wall and meeting with prime ministers, presidents and at least one king. All will be suitable for framing and appearing in political ads and fundraising letters.
He is only the first of the 2016 wannabes to hit the road to the Holy Land in the hope it will bring blessings for his future ambitions. Following soon after will be a parade of governors, senators, mayors and other preening politicians professing the love and admiration for the Jewish state.