Mitt Romney today strongly defended Israel’s right to act against the threat of an Iranian nuclear attack. And, while avoiding direct criticism of President Obama, he found a way to disagree with Obama’s approach to dealing with Israel.
The disagreement was subtle but clear. In a meeting with Jewish leaders in 2009, the president insisted the United States would have more influence with Arab countries in the Middle East if he put some “daylight,” at least diplomatically, between the United States and Israel.
Romney said this: “Diplomatic distance in public between our nations emboldens Israel’s adversaries … As long as we stay together and stand together, there is no threat we cannot overcome and very little we cannot achieve.”
He also rebutted criticism of those, like himself, who emphasize a possible preemptive attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities if the Iranians refuse to curtail their nuclear program and achieve the “capability” of building a nuclear weapon. “It is sometimes said that those who are most committed to stopping the Iranian regime from securing nuclear weapons are reckless and provocative and inviting war.”
Not true, according to Romney. “We are the true peacemakers,” he said. “History teaches with force and clarity that when the world’s most despotic regimes secure the world’s most destructive weapons, peace often gives way to violence, to oppression, or to devastating war.”
Since Romney embarked on his 8-day trip to London, Israel, and Poland, he has said he would not criticize Obama on foreign soil. And he hasn’t. But the tone of his remarks in defense of Israel is more pointed than Obama’s and his call for firm opposition to Iran more fervent.
Romney said the U.S. should answer critics of Israel. “We cannot stand silent as those who seek to undermine Israel, voice their criticisms,” he said. “And we certainly should not join in that criticism. By history and by conviction, our two countries are bound together. No individual, no nation, no world organization will pry us apart.” He did not name any individual.
Meanwhile, a comment by Dan Senor, a Romney adviser and the architect of his 36-hour visit to Israel, was interpreted by the press as a declaration of Romney’s support an Israeli raid on Iran nuclear plants. “If Israel has to take action on its own to stop Iran from developing that [nuclear] capability, the governor would respect that decision.”
To say this meant Romney advocates or backs an attack is “absurd,” a Romney aide said. The stories made it seem as “if Mitt was for launching Israeli f-16s to Teheran. Absurd.”
Romney got several standing ovations during his speech. This was a far cry from his reception in London by the British press, which blasted him for his comment about possible troubles at the Olympics. He travels on Monday to Gdansk and Warsaw. He will deliver a speech in Warsaw.