(JTA) — President Obama has led "from behind" on the Middle East, GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney charged in a foreign policy speech.
Romney, in a speech Monday at the Virginia Military Institute, said the attacks last month in Libya that left four American diplomats dead "were the deliberate work of terrorists who use violence to impose their dark ideology on others, especially women and girls; who are fighting to control much of the Middle East today; and who seek to wage perpetual war on the West."
"They are expressions of a larger struggle that is playing out across the broader Middle East – a region that is now in the midst of the most profound upheaval in a century."
Romney called out Obama for failing "to use America’s great power to shape history – not to lead from behind, leaving our destiny at the mercy of events."
Romney called the strain on the relationship between the president of the United States and the Prime Minister of Israel "a dangerous situation that has set back the hope of peace in the Middle East and emboldened our mutual adversaries, especially Iran."
"The President explicitly stated that his goal was to put ‘daylight’ between the United States and Israel. And he has succeeded," Romney said.
Romney also discussed Iran and its nuclear weapons program. "Iran today has never been closer to a nuclear weapons capability. It has never posed a greater danger to our friends, our allies, and to us," he said.
Romney also discussed the U.S. withdrawal from Iraq, and the uncontrolled violence by the Assad regime in Syria, concluding that "it is clear that the risk of conflict in the region is higher now than when the President took office."
"We cannot support our friends and defeat our enemies in the Middle East when our words are not backed up by deeds, when our defense spending is being arbitrarily and deeply cut, when we have no trade agenda to speak of, and the perception of our strategy is not one of partnership, but of passivity," Romney said.
Romney pledged to impose new sanctions on Iran, and to increase military assistance and coordination with Israel.
"I will reaffirm our historic ties to Israel and our abiding commitment to its security—the world must never see any daylight between our two nations," he added.
In a press call on behalf of Obama following the speech, former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright told reporters that "I know from my own conversations with Israelis, that they basically are very satisfied with President Obama’s policies towards Israel."
"But the bottom line from my conversations with Israelis is that they believe the relationship between the United States and Israel is as good as ever. I mean as good as it gets, very good, excellent, on the same wave length," Albright said.
Albright referred to Romney’s visit last summer to Israel. during which he said that Israel’s economic success was borne out of the power of culture, one that he implied Palestinians lack, as an example of his lack of Middle East experience.
Ben LaBolt, national press secretary with Obama for America, also said that Obama has spent more time talking to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that any other world leader.
The speech came on the same day that the Pew Research Center released the results of its latest poll, showing that registered voters are evenly split between Obama and Romney at 46 percent each.