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Romney's trip shows us his non-approach to the Israel-Palestine conflict

Is the presumptive Republican presidential candidate really as “pro-Israel” as he’d like us to believe? Or is it simply that he doesn’t have a clue, so he defers to being “pro-Netanyahu?” 

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Republican nominee Mitt Romney, July 29 2012 (photo: Avi Ochayon/GPO)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Republican nominee Mitt Romney, July 29 2012 (photo: Avi Ochayon/GPO)

1. Before arriving in Israel, Romney’s foreign policy on Israel amounted to a non-approach: His statements thus far has been that he would  first consult Prime Minister Netanyahu on all decisions regarding Israel and that he would be the “opposite of Obama.” This is a non-approach that defers to an inhuman and unsustainable status quo which is not only detrimental to Palestinians but to Israelis as well.

While Romney was busy trying to get over his diplomatic blunder in London on Friday, President Obama was once again proving he is the most “pro-Israel” president that he could possibly be. Surrounded by AIPAC officials in the Oval Office, Obama signed a bill that guarantees $70 million to Israel’s Iron Dome project, thereby reinforcing U.S. security and military cooperation with Israel. So what does being the opposite of Obama mean then? Romney can only be said to be “pro-Israel” inasmuch as “pro-Israel” means being “pro-Netanyahu and “pro-occupation.”

2. Romney’s visit to Jerusalem has only served to underscore his non-approach. He even went one step further when he broke the convention in U.S. politics of not criticizing the current president on foreign soil and attacked Obama – first in an interview to his sugar daddy’s newspaper Israel Hayom and then in his speech, when he stated, as reported in Haaretz, that “Diplomatic distance that is public and critical emboldens Israel’s adversaries.” So now we know Romney doesn’t keep his promises and has no integrity.

3. Romney asserted that he will back Israel’s right to strike Iran unconditionally: “I respect the right of Israel to defend itself and we stand with Israel.” This is standard fare but I mean, let’s be clear: this is a non-approach, as we have no idea what Romney is actually prepared to do or how he presumes to handle a situation in which the region is in all-out war. Clearly for Romney, “pro-Israel” means “pro-attack on Iran” and “ignoring the Palestinians.” 

4. Also, would it hurt to throw in some more standard fare about how a resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a vital part of bringing stability to the Middle East? Or is that considered too “anti-Israel?” How can a U.S. Presidential hopeful come to the region, not mention the Palestinians at all and not say something about the importance of a two-state solution? Even just for the sake of consistency as far as American foreign policy rhetoric for the last 40 years – not to mention the international community’s position?

5. As Juan Cole points out in his list of “Top Ten most Distasteful Things About Romney Trip to Israel:”

It is distasteful for an American political candidate to hold a high profile fundraiser abroad, implying a commitment to a foreign country as a means of reaching out to American interest groups.

Indeed, Monday morning’s fundraiser was expected to include extremely wealthy Jewish Americans who were reportedly flying in especially for it. In other words, Romney is using Jerusalem, one of the most controversial, tense, volatile and problematic places in the Middle East – and the epicenter of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict –  to host a fundraiser for extreme right-wing, one-staters like Sheldon Adelson and Evangelical Zionists that clearly do not have the interests of the actual residents of the city – both Israelis and Palestinians – at heart. It also has little to do with the majority of American Jews, who vote Democrat and, according to a recent Gallup poll, plan to continue to do so overwhelmingly in November.

Moreover, Romney’s aides announced the fundraiser will be closed to the press, which violates the agreements he reached with the press in April regarding coverage of all future fundraisers he holds in public spaces. So Romney once again broke a promise.

And as Juan Cole eloquently asserted, the location of the fundraiser makes it all the worse:

It is distasteful that he is holding the fundraiser in the King David Hotel, which was famously blown up by the Zionist terrorist organization Irgun in 1946, in a strike that killed 91 persons and wounded dozens, many of them innocent civilians.


Related Articles:

>> Romney or Obama: Why the Left in Israel should care

>> Did Romney snub Labor leader at PM Netanyahu’s request?

>> Romney uses Adelson’s free paper to criticize Obama

>> Jewish Democrats use rightist tactics to attack Romney on Israel

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    1. Richard Witty

      As much as I disagree with George Will generally, he had an insightful comment on the Sunday news show that I saw him.

      That was that it is unlikely that Romney was seeking to influence Jewish voters, who at most a couple thousand might swing, and not in swing states (maybe Florida is an exception.)

      But, that the Christian evangelical zionist movement will be greatly affected by his stance and drama, and are not well-informed or care about the complexities of issues there.

      The very bad precedent for Israeli politics though remains that Netanyahu has uniquely invited Americans to not only express private or public opinions on Israeli policies, but has now broken the ice on involvement in each other’s elections.

      The Israeli elections will also no longer be strictly among Israelis, but now non-Israelis are invited to campaign.

      Reply to Comment
    2. XYZ

      Enough with the self-righteousness. If Tzippi Livni were PM, she would be pushing everyone to vote for Obama. When Rabin was Ambassador in Washington, he openly endorsed Nixon.
      Slick Willy openly worked to have his “toy” Barak elected, he arranged campaign funds for him from Sabban and others and he sent his acolyte James Carville to work for him.
      The Left would do the SAME THINGS. These complaints are hypocrisy.

      Reply to Comment
    3. berl

      romney knows that he will never win and so is trying the last card. he is such a little man

      Reply to Comment
    4. Avi

      two points
      1) despite all of the criticism of the speech even Romney, supposedly Bibi’s best friend stopped short of defining Israel as the Jewish nation state which has been on Netanyahu’s agenda for years.

      2) Romney did not criticize the current administrations cooperation with Israel in terms of trade and security cooperation and he later stated that he believed in pressuring.
      Iran and not running to attack them. The only difference between Romney and Obama vis a vis Iran is posturing.

      3). Romney has not taken a position on the settlement issue publicly yet. This may give him some room to eventually pressure Israel regarding the settlement issue. It just will not be publicly reported to the press

      Reply to Comment
    5. Kolumn9

      1) The opposite of Obama means avoiding putting pressure on Israel for no gain whatsoever while driving the Arabs into unsustainable diplomatic positions high up in the trees. As for what pro-Israel means, it would normally consist of supporting Israeli political/diplomatic positions rather than openly declaring support for the demands of her enemies. However, given the logic of some people on this thread I can’t wait for someone to make the claim that supporting the destruction of Israel qualifies as a pro-Israel position.

      2) Legitimate criticism. He should have avoided criticizing Obama by name and should have just drawn contrasts to the current administration’s policies as Obama did during his Eurotrip in 2008.

      3) Clearly for Romney pro-Israel means supporting any action to prevent Iran from getting nuclear weapons. This is a controversial position? Or is the argument that it is possible to be both pro-Israel and support Iran achieving nuclear weapons without being totally delusional?

      4) The whole argument that Israeli-Arab peace is ‘vital’ to stability in the Middle East looks like a giant fallacy given what is happening in the region. Or do you want to argue that the fruit seller in Tunis set himself on fire because the ‘occupation’ continues? Because clearly the Syrian rebels are attacking Assad because the man is a lackey of Israel. Taking an obviously logically flawed position on the basis of consistency with the clearly disproven biases of previous administrations would be stupid.

      5) The event is now open to the media. You should probably post an update.

      Reply to Comment
    6. paul

      “This may give him some room to eventually pressure Israel”: wake up man

      Reply to Comment
    7. berl

      you are right. but what is really basic about romney is most of all his hint to the Israeli “cultural superiority”. it was like to have kipling back in life

      Reply to Comment