President Peres meets Mitt Romney in Jerusalem.
(photo credit: Moshe Milner/GPO)
There is no doubt that Mitt Romney is a great friend and supporter of Israel.
During his short but significant visit to the country this week, the former
Massachusetts governor said all the right things.
He backed, inter alia,
“any and all measures” to stop Iran from building nuclear weapons, Israel’s
right to defend itself (adding “it is right for America to stand by you”) and
its claim to Jerusalem as its capital – much to the chagrin of the
He argued that Israel’s security is a “vital national
security interest of the United States” and advocated a strong partnership
between the two countries.
“I believe that the enduring alliance between
the State of Israel and the United States of America is more than a strategic
alliance: It is a force for good in the world,” Romney declared in a foreign
policy address in Jerusalem, with the Old City walls providing a powerfully
In the speech, he also said, pointedly: “We cannot
stand silent as those who seek to undermine Israel voice their criticisms. And
we certainly should not join in that criticism. Diplomatic distance in public
between our nations emboldens Israel’s adversaries.”
Ahead of the
November 6 election in the US, the presumptive Republican candidate for
president presented himself as Israel’s closest friend but was careful not to
mention his adversary, the Democratic incumbent, Barack Obama.
appeared to be a preemptive move ahead of Romney’s visit on Sunday, Obama on
Friday signed a measure to strengthen US-Israeli military ties. And US Defense
Secretary Leon Panetta strongly defended USIsraeli security cooperation under
Obama before his scheduled visit to Israel today.
“I’m proud of the
defense partnership that we’ve built over the past several years. The US-Israel
defense relationship, I believe, is stronger today than it has been in the
past,” Panetta told reporters traveling with him in Tunisia.
received a warm welcome from Israeli leaders, especially Prime Minister Binyamin
Netanyahu, who noted that they had been friends for decades.
stressed that international sanctions against Iran, led by the US, must be
backed by a credible threat of military action.
“We have to be honest
that sanctions have not set back the Tehran program one iota and that a strong
military threat coupled with sanctions are needed to have a chance to change the
situation,” he said.
But Netanyahu, whose relations with Obama have
sometimes been strained, must be careful not to appear to be backing Romney. As
Israel’s leader, he cannot publicly favor one candidate over another.
same applies to The Jerusalem Post
. As Israel’s top English-language newspaper,
it cannot endorse any candidate in a foreign presidential race, particularly in
the US, Israel’s closest ally. Doing so would be beyond its purview and violate
Romney concluded his trip in Jerusalem yesterday
morning with a million-dollar fundraiser for a group of mostly Jewish Americans
who live here.
His trip to Israel, like Obama’s before the last
presidential campaign, clearly won him friends here and might boost his chances
among American Jews and perhaps Christian voters, too.
With Obama and
Romney running neck and neck in the polls, recent surveys have signaled that the
American Jewish vote could swing in the direction of the Republican party more
than in the past, even if a majority continues to vote Democrat.
the most powerful statement by Romney during his visit was made at the Western
Wall as Jews commemorated Tisha Be’av, the fast day mourning the destruction of
both the First and Second Temples as well as other tragedies suffered by the
“In this sacred spot and on this special day, I have
gotten to know more about the history of the Jewish people, and I feel the pain
of the destruction undergone by the Jewish people – the special nation as it was
in the past – and I pray and hope for peace for the nation of Israel and the
entire world,” Romney said, with obvious emotion.
Wearing a kippa, he
carefully placed a note in the Kotel, as Obama had done in 2008. His wife, Ann,
revealed that she had decided to fast for the day, in keeping with Jewish
Actions often speak louder than words. We can only embrace
Romney and thank him for this important visit while urging Obama to follow suit.
Both men are friends of Israel; we believe their friendship will endure,
irrespective of who wins the presidential race. It is in both their interest and