Romney: Obama purposely distancing US from Israel

Republican presidential candidate accuses Obama of maintaining weak Middle East policy that could pull US "into the maelstrom."

Mitt Romney on the campaign trail 370 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Mitt Romney on the campaign trail 370
(photo credit: REUTERS)
US Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney on Sunday accused US President Barack Obama of deliberately creating a rift between Jerusalem and Washington, in an opinion piece he penned in the Wall Street Journal.
In his article entitled "A New Course for the Middle East," Romney wrote that he believes the US Administration has failed to advance American interests in the region, citing Israel as an example of an ally that has been ignored and let down. "The president began his term with the explicit policy of creating 'daylight' between our two countries," Romney wrote. US Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice had used the same expression last month to deny any rift between the two countries in an interview with CNN, saying "the United States is in constant communication with Israel" and adding "there is no daylight" between Jerusalem and Washington.
Romney continued: Obama "recently downgraded Israel from being our 'closest ally' in the Middle East to being only 'one of our closest allies.' It's a diplomatic message that will be received clearly by Israel and its adversaries alike. He dismissed Israel's concerns about Iran as mere 'noise' that he prefers to 'block out.' And at a time when Israel needs America to stand with it, he declined to meet with Prime Minister [Binyamin] Netanyahu."
Romney has been a vocal critic of the US president's policies in the Middle East, often deriding him for what he says is a weakness in confronting Islamism and for allegedly downgrading ties with Israel, saying he is "throwing Israel under the bus." Obama maintains that US-Israel ties are as strong as ever, citing record defense aid to Jerusalem.
In an interview with 60 Minutes last week, Obama underscored that he and Netanyahu are in regular communication, underlining their cooperation. "I understand and share Prime Minister Netanyahu's insistence that Iran should not obtain a nuclear weapon because it would threaten us, it would threaten Israel and it would threaten the world and kick off a nuclear arms race."
Asked if he feels any pressure by Netanyahu to "draw a line in the sand" on the Iranian nuclear issue, the US president responded: "When it comes to our national security decisions, any pressure that I feel is simply to do what's right for the American people. And I am going to block out any noise that's out there."
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Turning to the Iranian issue, Romney called for the US to make clear that Washington will not accept further nuclear proliferation. "When we say an Iranian nuclear-weapons capability—and the regional instability that comes with it—is unacceptable, the ayatollahs must be made to believe us," he wrote.
Romney made the case that happenings in the Middle East directly affect the United States. "If the Middle East descends into chaos, if Iran moves toward nuclear breakout, or if Israel's security is compromised, America could be pulled into the maelstrom," he wrote.
"We still have time to address these threats, but it will require a new strategy toward the Middle East."