WASHINGTON – Top Republicans and Democrats traded barbs over the presidential
candidates’ Israel policy a day before GOP candidate Mitt Romney leaves on
foreign trip that will stop in the Jewish state.
US House Majority Leader
Eric Cantor described President Barack Obama as putting a “real cloud” over the
USIsrael relationship and charged that his leadership on the Middle East was
“I’ve been there in the region lately and I hear Arab
governments as well as the Israelis questioning where is America in terms of our
leadership,” he told Fox News on Wednesday.
Romney arrives Thursday in
the UK to participate in the Opening Ceremonies of the Olympic games before
stopping in Israel Sunday and then visiting Poland.
“It is very clear
that Mitt Romney is going to Israel, to the UK, to Poland, to visit allies of
ours who stand with us in times of challenge,” Cantor said.
campaign, however, has been attacking Romney for embarking on a trip it says
will lack substance and for failing to articulate clear foreign policy
differences with Obama.
Vice President Joe Biden made some of the same
points as a response to Romney’s appearance at the Veterans of Foreign Wars
convention in Nevada Tuesday.
“On Iran, Governor Romney does a compelling
job laying out exactly what the administration is already doing,” Biden said in
a statement circulated by the Obama campaign. “The only step he seems to think
we should take that we are not already taking is to launch a war. If that is
what the governor is for, he should tell the American people.”
his speech slammed Obama’s Iran policy for including dangerous intelligence
leaks about covert operations and not being more supportive of the opposition
when protests first broke out in 2009.
And in a lengthy foreign policy
paper put out by the campaign, he called for doing more to support Iranians
opposed to the regime as well as a clearer articulation of America’s willingness
to use force and more diplomatic isolation of Iranian President Mahmoud
Ahmadinejad – including trying to indict him for inciting genocide under the UN
Romney noted at the VFW convention that he “wouldn’t
venture into another country to question American foreign policy,” he would use
the conference as an opportunity to criticize Obama’s “shabby treatment” of
“President Obama is fond of lecturing Israel’s leaders. He was
even caught by a microphone deriding them,” he said, referring to an incident in
which Obama was caught on an open mike conversing with then French president
Nicholas Sarkozy in less than positive terms.
“He has undermined their
position, which was tough enough as it was,” Romney charged.
back against Romney’s comments, saying in the statement, “Governor Romney
continues his long litany of untruths about our administration’s policies toward
He referred to record levels of security assistance, staging of
the largest joint military exercises in history and “the most consistent and
comprehensive exchanges ever between our top political, defense, security and
Ahead of Romney’s trip to Israel, the Obama
campaign also indicated Monday that the president, if reelected, would travel to
Jerusalem in his next term. Romney backers have been trying to highlight the
fact that Obama never visited Israel in his first term, though he did travel
there as a candidate in 2008.
Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (RFlorida), chair
of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, was quick to jump on the news of Obama’s
“We can only speculate about why the president has failed
to visit the capital of our closest ally in the region, but we don’t need to
speculate about the timing of the latest hint from the White House that
President Obama will travel to Israel in his second term. It’s politically
inspired, coming as it does only days before Mitt Romney heads off to
Jerusalem,” she charged in a statement put out by the campaign.
should not play political games with US foreign policy, particularly at a moment
when the Middle East is a tinderbox.”
Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz,
(D-Florida), who is chairwoman of the National Democratic Committee, fired back
that “the only candidate in this race playing politics with America’s bipartisan
support for Israel is Mitt Romney.”
She added, “The bottom line is that
President Obama has been a steadfast supporter of the Jewish State – and
numerous Israeli leaders have spoken out publicly to agree.”