Mitt Romney at the Wailing Wall
Romney backs Israel’s right to strike Iran
By Tobias Buck, Financial Times
July 29, 2012
Jerusalem–Mitt Romney would not stand in the way of an Israeli attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities, a senior adviser to the presumptive Republican presidential candidate has said.
“If Israel has to take action on its own, in order to stop Iran from developing that [nuclear weapons] capability, the governor would respect that decision,” said Dan Senor, a foreign policy adviser to Mr Romney, during the candidate’s visit to Israel.
The remarks, made to US journalists travelling with the candidate, came ahead of Mr Romney’s meeting on Sunday with Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, and other Israeli leaders.
They appear to set out a position that is more hawkish than that taken by the current US administration, which has made clear repeatedly that it opposes a military strike on Iran for the time being.
Senior US officials – including President Barack Obama – have stated on many occasions that the military option against Iran must remain “on the table”. However, officials and analysts say that Washington has also put intense pressure on Israel for now to give more time to diplomacy and sanctions to halt Iran’s nuclear ambitions.
Mr Romney’s visit to Israel is widely seen as the most important, as well as the most sensitive, leg of his pre-election journey, which started in London last week. The former Massachusetts governor will be anxious not to repeat his widely criticised performance in the British capital, where he was publicly rebuked by political leaders for casting doubt over London’s readiness to host the Olympic Games.
The visit to Israel is significant above all because it comes amid a concerted Republican campaign to attract more votes from the American Jewish community, traditionally a bastion of Democrat support. At the heart of the Republican push is the claim that Mr Obama has not been sufficiently supportive of Israel, and the accusation that he has not been forceful enough in his dealings with Iran.
In an apparent bid to neutralise some of that criticism, the US leader on Friday announced a military aid package for Israel worth $70m.
Mr Romney himself has so far been careful not to voice direct criticism of the president’s policies while travelling abroad, in accordance with US political custom. However, he was due to give a foreign policy speech in Jerusalem on Sunday evening seeking to portray the Republican candidate as a staunch Israeli ally.
“When Iran’s leaders deny the Holocaust or speak of wiping this nation off the map, only the naive – or worse – will dismiss it as an excess of rhetoric,” according to extracts from the speech released by the Romney campaign on Sunday.
“Make no mistake: the ayatollahs in Tehran are testing our moral defences. They want to know who will object, and who will look the other way. My message to the people of Israel and the leaders of Iran is one and the same: I will not look away; and neither will my country.”
On Monday, Mr Romney is scheduled to hold a fundraising event in Jerusalem.