Politicians spar on Israel ahead of Romney visit

Obama campaign attacks Romney for trip it says lacks substance, for failing to articulate clear foreign policy differences.

By HILARY LEILA KRIEGER, JPOST CORRESPONDENT
July 25, 2012 21:37
3 minute read.
Mitt Romney steps off his campaign plane [file]

Mitt Romney steps off his campaign plane 370 (R). (photo credit: Brian Snyder / Reuters)

 
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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 lacking.

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“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.

The Obama 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.

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“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.”

Romney in 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 genocide charter.

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 Israel.

“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.

Biden pushed back against Romney’s comments, saying in the statement, “Governor Romney continues his long litany of untruths about our administration’s policies toward Israel.”

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 intelligence officials.”

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 intended trip.

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“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.

“One 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.”

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