US military and intelligence support for Israel is not enough, and Washington
must ensure there is no public diplomatic distance between the two countries so
Israel’s adversaries don’t get emboldened, Republican presidential hopeful Mitt
Romney said Sunday in Jerusalem, in a barely veiled swipe at President Barack
Romney, who has said repeatedly in recent days that he had no
intention of criticizing Obama on foreign soil, did not mention the president by
name once in a 20-minute outdoor foreign policy address he gave in the shadows
of Jerusalem’s Old City.
But he didn’t need to, because it was clear that
he was referring to the often rocky relationship between Obama and Prime
Minister Binyamin Netanyahu when he said, “Diplomatic distance in public between
our nations emboldens Israel’s adversaries.”
Obama, in the early days of
his tenure, was quoted as saying that there was nothing wrong in showing
“daylight” between the US and Israel.
“Standing by Israel does not mean
with military and intelligence cooperation alone,” Romney said, apparently
referring to the ties that both Israeli and US officials say have reached
unprecedented heights under Obama. “We cannot stand silent as those who seek to
undermine Israel voice their criticisms. And we certainly should not join in
that criticism,” he said.
Romney, at the event attended by some 300
guests invited by those close to his campaign, seemed to strive hard to place
distance between himself and Obama.
He stressed the Jewish people’s
connection to Israel, something Obama famously did not do in his Cairo speech in
“To step foot into Israel is to step foot into a nation that began
with an ancient promise made in this land,” Romney said. “The Jewish people
persisted through one of the most monstrous crimes in human history, and now
this nation has come to take its place among the most impressive democracies on
earth. Israel’s achievements are a wonder of the modern world.”
stressed his relationship with Netanyahu, whom he referred to as “my friend” and
characterized as “one of the strongest voices” articulating the values the US
and Israel share.
After the speech, in comments he made before meeting
the prime minister for the second time that day, for dinner, Romney made it a point to refer to Jerusalem
as Israel’s capital, putting distance between him and the Obama administration,
whose spokesmen in recent weeks have been unable to name Israel’s
Chief Palestinian Authority negotiator Saeb Erekat criticized
“Mitt Romney’s words are damaging, they harm peace,
stability and security,” Erekat was quoted by Israel Radio as saying. “We reject
these statements completely.”
One of the main focuses of Romney’s speech,
as in his meetings throughout the day with Israel’s leaders, was on Iran. Here
he pushed a hard rhetorical line but stopped well short of saying whether he
would order a military strike to prevent Tehran from getting nuclear
“When Iran’s leaders deny the Holocaust or speak of wiping this
nation off the map, only the naïve – or worse – will dismiss it as an excess of
rhetoric,” Romney said. “Make no mistake: The ayatollahs in Tehran are testing
our moral defenses. They want to know who will object and who will look the
Romney said his message to both Israel and Iran was that
neither he nor his country would “look the other way.”
Saying that “we
have a solemn duty and moral imperative to deny Iran’s leaders the means to
follow through on their malevolent intentions,” he was short on details about
how this should be done.
“We should employ any and all measures to
dissuade the Iranian regime from its nuclear course, and it is our fervent hope
that diplomatic and economic measures will do so,” he said. “In the final
analysis, of course, no option should be excluded.
We recognize Israel’s
right to defend itself, and that it is right for America to stand with
Dan Senor, a top foreign policy aide to Romney, told reporters on a
flight from London to Tel Aviv that Romney would back an Israeli attack on
Romney, asked about that in an ABC interview from Jerusalem on
Sunday, said: “I think I’ll use my own terms in that regard, and that is that I
recognize the right of Israel to defend itself.”
The early evening
speech, delivered at a time when many in his audience were in the 23rd hour of
their Tisha Be’av fast, came at the tail-end of a day crammed with meetings that
began with a meeting with Netanyahu, which was dominated by talk about
Romney, in statements to the cameras before the meeting, said he
wanted to hear Netanyahu’s perceptions and ideas regarding the
situation. A former one-term governor from Massachusetts, Romney’s
current trip to England, Israel and Poland is widely seen as an effort to
bolster his foreign policy credentials and begin to create the perception in the
eyes of American voters of a man with statesmanlike qualities.
He said he
wanted to talk with Netanyahu about “further actions that we can take to
dissuade Iran from their nuclear folly.”
Netanyahu, who referred to
Romney as “Mitt” and said they have been friends for decades, said he
appreciated comments the candidate made recently to the effect that “the
greatest danger facing the world is of the ayatollah regime possessing nuclear
Saying that he could not agree with that comment
more, Netanyahu added that “I think it’s important to do everything in our power
to prevent the ayatollahs from possessing the capability. We have to be honest
and say that all the sanctions and diplomacy so far have not set back the
Iranian program by one iota. And that’s why I believe that we need a strong and
credible military threat, coupled with the sanctions, to have a chance to change
Romney, who arrived on Saturday evening and had to
cancel a planned fund-raiser Sunday evening because of the Tisha Be’Av fast,
said he was “honored to be here on the day of Tisha Be’av, to recognize the
solemnity of the day and also the suffering of the Jewish people over the
centuries and the millennia.”
Unfortunately, he said, “the tragedies of
wanton killing are not only things of the past, but have darkened our skies in
even more recent times.”
Following the morning meeting with the prime
minister, he went to a meeting with President Shimon Peres.
did not mention the Palestinian issue once during his speech, was quoted by
Peres’s office as saying he was in favor of two states for two peoples, but that
Hamas could not be part of that equation. “Everything must be done to
strengthen the peace between Israel and the Palestinians and between Israel and
its neighbors,” he said.
Romney met during the day with PA Prime Minister
Salam Fayyad, as well as with Kadima chairman Shaul Mofaz.
meeting with Labor chairwoman Shelly Yechimovich was canceled at the last
Romney also paid a visit to the Western Wall, packed on Sunday
because of Tisha Be’av. Asked in the ABC interview about that visit and whether
he shared with his wife, Ann, what he was going to write on the note he left in
the Wall, Romney said that he and his wife read to each other what they wrote.
“My thoughts were in regards to peace, my family, my wife and the source of our
salvation,” he said.
Romney is scheduled to hold a $50,000-a-couple
fund-raiser on Monday morning at the King David Hotel before leaving for Poland
– the final leg of his foreign trip. Among those expected to be in attendance at
the fund-raiser is US billionaire Sheldon Adelson, who has contributed
significantly to the campaign and who had a front row seat, along with his wife,
Miriam, at Romney’s speech.
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