Washington Watch: Is Romney ready for prime time?
If Romney becomes president and decides to pursue Israeli-Palestinian negotiations he will start with a great disadvantage.
Mitt Romney gives foreign policy speech in J'lem Photo: Screenshot
Mitt Romney’s overseas tour got off to a poor start in London, where he
succeeded in insulting nearly the entire country, but did little harm beyond
getting a headline in the country’s largest newspaper calling him “Mitt the
twit,” and sullying his reputation as not being ready for prime time.
his rhetoric took a dangerous turn in Israel, where he gave his friend Prime
Minister Binyamin Netanyahu a virtual green light to attack Iran. That may have
delighted his host and both men’s hawkish supporters, but it has most Israelis –
starting with the defense and intelligence establishment – and many friends of
the Jewish state in this country, worried.
Romney also managed to insult
the Palestinians on several counts, which also may play well with the hardline
political base here and delight his billionaire backer Sheldon Adelson, but
could prove disastrous should he become president.
could not have been happy about his boy’s endorsement of the two-state approach
to Middle East peace, which the casino mogul stridently opposes as a threat to
Israel’s very survival.
Romney’s Jerusalem speech was short on substance.
In general, its broad themes attacked the Obama administration’s policies but
were delivered with a measure of emotion largely missing when the president
speaks of Israel.
Both are committed to making sure Iran does not get a
nuclear weapon, using military force if necessary, but Obama has said he would
act to prevent Iran from producing nukes while Romney adopts Netanyahu’s
insistence that the world must prevent Iran from even getting the capability to
build the bomb.
Dan Senor, a Romney senior foreign policy adviser, told
reporters, “If Israel has to take action on its own in order to stop Iran from
developing the capability, the governor would respect that
Senor tried to back off a bit later by saying Romney “believes
we should employ any and all measures” to discourage Iran but ultimately “no
option should be excluded.” Still, that didn’t turn off the green
Romney embraced Obama’s basic policies: Israel’s security is in
America’s vital national security interest, the military option with Iran is on
the table and containment is not an option.
The presumptive GOP
presidential nominee took a verbal poke at Obama, who earlier this year had
warned against “loose talk of war” and that “now is not the time to bluster.”
Romney apparently took that personally and protested he is not being “reckless
and provocative and inviting war” but being one of “the true
SPEAKING OF peace, if Romney becomes president and decides
to pursue Israeli- Palestinian negotiations he will start with a great
disadvantage and that won’t be good for the United States or Israel.
managed to insult the Palestinians by refusing to see their president, Mahmoud
Abbas, and summoning Prime Minister Salam Fayyad to a brief meeting at the King
David Hotel in Jerusalem instead of going to Ramallah, the seat of the
He pleased Israelis by declaring Jerusalem the
capital of the Jewish state – but Palestinians, who want the city’s eastern
section for their capital, called Romney’s statement “unacceptable” and
But the gaffe-prone former Massachusetts governor didn’t stop
there. He told a group of wealthy donors at a $50,000-ahead Jerusalem fundraiser
that Israel is more economically successful than the Palestinians territories
because “culture makes all the difference” Saeb Erekat, the chief PA negotiator,
called Romney’s remarks “racist,” adding, “It seems to me this man lacks
information, knowledge, vision and understanding of this region and its
Questions are being raised about whether Romney’s dismissing the
Palestinians was deliberate to pander to his target audiences back home or just
a matter of ignorance, ineptitude and bad staffing.
Fareed Zakaria said Romney’s blunders are a sign of poor staff work and the need
to enlist some “heavyweight” foreign-policy advisers.
“[Romney] has been
strangely amateurish on foreign policy,” Zakaria wrote.
“[He] has tried
to dredge up the standard issue Cold War Republican attack on Democrats: the
world is dangerous, our enemies are growing strong and Obama is weak. The
problem is, most Americans recognize that none of this is
“President Obama is the first Democrat in nearly 50 years to enter
an election with a dramatic advantage in foreign policy,” he added.
IMPRESSED with Obama’s performance are Israeli President Shimon Peres and
Defense Minister Ehud Barak, both former prime ministers.
Romney that Obama’s Iran policies are the right ones.
Barak, who has been
more closely coordinating Iran policy with more American officials than any
other Israeli, told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer this White House is doing “more than
anything I can remember in the past.” Relations between the two countries, he
said, “are extremely good, extremely deep and profound.”
Romney’s grand gaffe gallivant went to Poland, where he quickly got the
endorsement of former president and Obama critic Lech Walesa, who led the
Solidarity Union movement that overthrew Communist rule. Solidarity immediately
distanced itself from its former leader, saying it was distressed by “Mitt
Romney’s support for the attacks against trade unions and labor rights” and
wanted it known “we did not invite him to visit Poland.”
foreign trip as the presumptive Republican nominee was intended to create the
impression of foreign policy expertise, despite his lack of any relevant
experience. Instead, a succession of mistakes only reinforced the impression
that, at least in the foreign policy realm, this candidate is not ready for