WASHINGTON (JTA) – Mitt Romney said he would increase defense assistance to
Israel, raise the US military profile near Iran and recognize Israel as a Jewish
Romney, the former Massachusetts governor and front-runner in the
bid to secure the Republican nomination for president, delivered the first major
foreign policy speech of his campaign Friday at The Citadel, a military college
in South Carolina.
He cast President Barack Obama’s policies as
contributing to Israel’s isolation.
“I will bolster and repair our
alliances,” Romney said. “Our friends should never fear that we will not stand
by them in an hour of need. I will reaffirm as a vital national interest
Israel’s existence as a Jewish state.”
The Obama and Netanyahu
governments have smoothed relations in recent months, and Israeli officials
credit the administration with tightening defense ties and backing Israel at the
Obama also refers to Israel as a Jewish state, although
he has not issued a formal declaration of such a recognition.
suggested Israel might be further isolated by 2015 if Obama remains in
“Will Iran be a fully activated nuclear weapons state,
threatening its neighbors, dominating the world’s oil supply with a stranglehold
on the Strait of Hormuz?” he asked. “In the hands of the ayatollahs, a nuclear
Iran is nothing less than an existential threat to Israel.
suicidal fanatics could blackmail the world.
“By 2015, will Israel be
even more isolated by a hostile international community? Will those who seek
Israel’s destruction feel emboldened by American ambivalence? Will Israel have
been forced to fight yet another war to protect its citizens and its right to
exist?” Romney said that as president he would “enhance our deterrent against
the Iranian regime by ordering the regular presence of aircraft carrier task
forces, one in the Eastern Mediterranean and one in the Persian Gulf region. I
will begin discussions with Israel to increase the level of our military
assistance and coordination.
And I will again reiterate that Iran
obtaining a nuclear weapon is unacceptable.”
He also said he would
centralize US Middle East policy to ensure “that the Arab Spring does not fade
into a long winter.”
The speech came a day after Romney published a list
of his foreign policy advisers, including many who have been active in or are
close to the pro-Israel community.