GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney has given two interviews to Israeli newspapers ahead of his arrival in Jerusalem Saturday night.
“I would treat Israel like the friend and ally it is,” Romney told Israel Hayom, the newspaper owned by Las Vegas casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, who has donated millions of dollars to Republican and Israeli causes. Adelson, who owns a home in Israel, may attend a $50,000 a plate fundraiser for Romney in Israel Monday.
“I cannot imagine going to the United Nations, as Obama did, and criticizing Israel in front of the world,” Romney continued. “You don’t criticize your allies in public to achieve the applause of your foes.”
So Romney learned first-hand in London Thursday, as his perceived criticism of preparations for the London Olympics got his three-nation foreign trip off to a quite rocky start.
British Prime Minister David Cameron and London mayor Boris Johnson–both conservatives–fiercely defended preparations for the London Olympic Games after Romney told NBC Wednesday he found some reports of some pre-Games snafus “disconcerting.”
“If Mitt Romney doesn’t like us, we shouldn’t care,” railed the headline from the conservative UK Telegraph Thursday. London mayor Boris Johnson later mocked Romney in front of a crowd of 60,000 in Hyde Park, asking: “Mitt Romney wants to know whether we’re ready! Are we ready?” .
Romney also gave an interview in London Thursday to Israel’s liberal Haaretz newspaper. (Being on foreign soil when the interview was conducted, he told the paper he was trying to refrain from politicizing foreign policy.)
Asked about his Iran policy, Romney said he, like President Obama, have both said that a nuclear Iran is unacceptable:The military option is the least attractive option but should not be ruled out, he said.
“President Obama has said that a nuclear Iran is unacceptable. I feel a nuclear Iran is unacceptable,” Romney told Haaretz. “The term ‘unacceptable’ continues to have a meaning: It suggests that all options will be employed to prevent that outcome.”
“I am personally committed to take every step necessary to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapons capability,” Romney said.
In Israel, Romney will hold a breakfast fundraiser Monday (July 30) at Jerusalem’s King David Hotel. He will also meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu–an old friend from their days at the Boston Consulting Group; Israeli President Shimon Peres, Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, and US Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro, who served as the Obama campaign’s chief of Jewish outreach in 2008.
But even with the personal ties and partisan sympathies Romney shares with Netanyahu, the powers of his White House incumbent challenger to make policy, sign bills, and grab headlines are hard to match.
On Friday, President Obama signed “a new U.S.-Israel security pact …a move that could steal some of the headlines there” as Romney arrives,” Yahoo’s Olivier Knox noted. Indeed.
Israeli leaders and American Jewish groups applauded Obama’s action Friday.
“The Government and the people of Israel express profound gratitude to President Barack Obama on his signing of the U.S.-Israel Enhanced Security Cooperation Act,” Israeli Ambassador to the United States Michael Oren said in a statement Friday. It “sends an unequivocal message of support to the people of Israel at a time of great uncertainty throughout the entire Middle East.”
The security pact bolsters the “crucial” US-Israel security alliance “by extending loan guarantees…authorizing American military stockpiles in Israel, and improving military and intelligence cooperation, particularly in missile defense,” the Orthodox Union’s Nathan Diament said in a press statement.
Meantime, US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta plans to travel to Israel, as well as Jordan, Egypt and Tunisia next week, the Pentagon announced Thursday.
The bill signing, as well as the Pentagon chief’s Israel trip, come “as Mitt Romney nears a visit to Israel with no power to provide security aid, unlike the incumbent,” CBS’s Mark Knoller noted.
(Photo: U.S. Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney speaks to the press following his meetings with British Prime Minister David Cameron and British Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne outside 10 Downing Street in London, July 26, 2012. REUTERS/Jason Reed.)