ROMNEY’S ISRAEL SPEECH
by Joshua Mitnick
The presumptive Republican candidate for President offered few hints of what he would do differently from Obama aside from avoiding public disputes with Israel.
Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney delivers a speech in Jerusalem Sunday.
In a signal foreign policy speech in Jerusalem, former governor Mitt Romney said that preventing Iran from building a nuclear weapon should be the “highest national security priority,” and chided President Barack Obama for quarreling with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over how to do it.
With Romney visit, Israelis worry about becoming a partisan issue – Benjamin Netanyahu goes to Congress, saying patience with Iran wears thin.
However, the presumptive Republican nominee for president offered few hints on what he would do differently from the Obama Administration. Though a senior adviser, Dan Senor, earlier suggested that Mr. Romney would “respect” an Israeli decision to launch a lone attack, Romney in his speech reiterated the more vague formulation of the Obama Administration that “we recognize Israel’s right to defend itself.”
He did reproach the President indirectly for chastising the Israeli leaders for saber rattling, a remark made when Mr. Netanyahu last visited Washington.
“It is sometimes said that those who are the most committed to stopping the Iranian regime from securing nuclear weapons are reckless and provocative and inviting war,” Romney said. “The opposite is true. We are the true peacemakers.”
Romney’s visit has escalated the competition between the two campaigns to demonstrate who’s a stronger supporter of the Jewish state. Obama on Friday announced $70 million in additional military aid to help develop a rocket system to intercept missiles from Gaza and Lebanon.
Israeli officials and analysts are anxious about Israel being in the election’s spotlight, and would prefer the country to be more of an afterthought. That’s because an election debate over Israel could damage long term ties between the countries by risking the Jewish state’s long cultivated bipartisan support in Washington.
“We don’t want to be part of the issue,” says an Israeli diplomat, who was not authorized to speak. “We have very strong bi-partisan support and we want to keep it that way. We want there to be strong relations with the US. Not with blue or red.”
Romney: Jerusalem is capital
Speaking against the backdrop of Jerusalem’s Old City, Romney called the disputed city Israel’s capital. That’s likely to bother Palestinians and Arab countries who claim East Jerusalem – the portions captured in the 1967 Arab Israeli War – as capital of a Palestinian state.
In another dig at Obama – who has been bragging about stepped up military cooperation with Israel – Romney blamed the President for allowing public disputes to emerge: “Standing by Israel does not mean with military and intelligence cooperation alone,” he said. “We cannot stand silent as those who seek to undermine Israel, voice their criticisms. And we certainly should not join in that criticism. Diplomatic distance in public between our nations emboldens Israel’s adversaries.”