Romney: I would visit Israel first as president

In Republican presidential debate Gingrich pledges support for Israeli strike on Iran, Paul less supportive.

By JTA
November 23, 2011 08:49
1 minute read.
Republican candidates at debate 22 Nov

Republican candidates at debate 22 Nov 311 R. (photo credit: REUTERS/Jim Bourg)

 
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WASHINGTON - US Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney said Tuesday that his first foreign trip as president would be to Israel.

Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, said during a Republican foreign policy debate that US President Barack Obama had been unfriendly to Israel.

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"The right course for Israel is to care about Israel," he said during the debate with seven other contenders for the GOP nod, held in Washington. "My first foreign trip will be to Israel to show we care about them."

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Obama has not visited Israel as president. He visited Cairo early in his term to deliver an appeal for friendship to the Muslim world

Another candidate, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, said he would likely make Israel his first stop, although his first foreign policy priority would be to counter anti-American trends in Latin America.

Among the questions raised at the debate, co-sponsored by CNN, the American Enterprise Institute and the Heritage Foundation, was whether the candidates would join Israel in an attack on Iran to stop it from obtaining a nuclear weapon.

Herman Cain, a businessman, said that he would once he had assessed Israel's mission as sufficiently clear.

Newt Gingrich, the former US House of Representatives speaker, said that he would join such an endeavor only if it were a last resort and he was certain it would result in regime change.

He added that not supporting Israel could be dangerous in such a situation, because should Israel feel abandoned, it might resort to nuclear weapon attacks on Iran. Israel does not acknowledge possessing nuclear weapons and has always maintained it will not be the first nation in the region to use them.

The only other candidate to address the question, Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas), said that he would not join Israel, but added that he did not believe Israel would launch a strike.

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