Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley has postponed his trip to Israel as a result of the conflict between the Israeli government and Palestinian groups in the Gaza Strip, O'Malley's office announced Tuesday.

The eight-day trip slated to start Friday probably will be rescheduled for the spring, though dates have not been set, said Karen Glenn Hood, spokeswoman for the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development, which is sponsoring the trip.

"Not wanting to be a distraction from the urgent cause of peace, I look forward to visiting Israel in the months ahead with Maryland business, research and academic leaders," O'Malley said. "For now, we join with our Israeli and Palestinian neighbors in praying for a cease-fire and peaceful resolution to the conflict."

Aimed at forging business relationships to bolster Maryland's economy, the trip included stops in Jordan and Ramallah and visits with Israeli President Shimon Peres and Jordan's King Abdullah II. In addition to O'Malley, Maryland Secretary of State John McDonough and Secretary of Business and Economic Development Christian Johansson were among the trip's roughly 60 participants. Officials from the University of Maryland and Johns Hopkins University were also expected to go.

O'Malley takes an economic development trip every year.

Last November, O'Malley went on a six-day trip to India, and in May 2011, he took a 10-day trip to China, South Korea and Vietnam. Those two trips cost the state $135,000 and $144,000, respectively, Hood said, though she pointed to a bunch of business deals and relationships that resulted from each.

"These gubernatorial visits do create contacts, and that can be very helpful, especially when the economy is trying to wean itself from the federal dollar," said Stephen Fuller, director of George Mason University's Center for Regional Analysis. "Face-to-face contacts are important, especially in the Middle East."

But for someone like O'Malley, who is believed to be considering a presidential run, a trip to Israel is an important political step, said David Karol, who teaches government and politics at the University of Maryland.

"A trip to Israel has become one of the stops on the tour for a prospective presidential candidate, just like Iowa and New Hampshire."