After a rocky visit to Great Britain, GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney got a much friendlier reception in Israel on Sunday.He visited the Western Wall, met with Israeli leaders and Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, held a $50,000-per-couple fundraiser, and dined at the house of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, an old acquaintance.
Romney also delivered a policy speech, pointedly calling Jerusalem the capital of Israel (a controversial declaration that U.S. presidents have avoided for decades), and saying that the U.S. has a “solemn duty and a moral imperative” to keep Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons, and that “no option should be excluded” toward that end.
Senior Romney foreign policy adviser Dan Senor was more explicit Sunday morning, saying that “if Israel has to take action on its own” to stop Iran, “the governor would respect that decision.” Is all-but-endorsing a pre-emptive Israeli strike on Iran really a good idea for a presidential candidate?
Romney is being reckless: If Israel attacks Iran, says Martin Longman at Booman Tribune, much of the world will blame the United States, as we give Israel a huge amount of foreign aid. So it’s downright “dangerous and irresponsible” for Romney to openly bless such a strike, especially with no conditions. That not only slaps at President Obama’s foreign policy, it undermines it: “We are trying to prevent a war and Romney is urging Israel to start one.” Besides, rather than making Romney look strong on defence, this “makes him look weak,” as it appears that he’s playing second fiddle to Netanyahu.
“Iran rhetoric makes Romney look weak”
But many Americans will agree with Romney: It’s true that “after the Iraq and Afghanistan wars there is not a lot of American appetite for launching new wars in the Middle East,” says Walter Russell Mead at The American Interest. But Israel is a special case: Large numbers of Americans believe that protecting Israel from its (and our) “most bitter enemies” is a moral imperative, no matter the consequences. So by supporting Israel’s right to robust self-defence, Romney is actually “telling millions of voters that he is a solid and loyal American.”
“Mitt needs to make Israel count”
In the end, Romney is mostly toeing the Obama line: The GOP presidential candidate is certainly trying to draw clear distinctions with Obama’s policies on Iran and Israel, says Peter Baker in The New York Times. “But once the incendiary flourishes are stripped away, the actual foreign policy differences between the two seem more a matter of degree and tone” than substance. “They both would try to stop Iran’s nuclear program through sanctions and negotiations without ruling out a military option,” for example. The question for voters is who would more effectively implement the shared objectives.
“Romney and Obama strain to show gap on foreign policy”
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