WASHINGTON (JTA) — Mitt Romney told an audience of Christian conservatives that he would do the “opposite” of what President Obama has done when it comes to Israel.
“I think, by and large, you can just look at the things the president has done and do the opposite,” Romney said Saturday in an address by video to a conference of the Faith and Freedom Coalition.
Romney, the former Massachusetts governor and the all but certain Republican presidential nominee, was campaigning in Pennsylvania when the conference took place in Washington.
Romney faulted Obama for asking Israel to hold back while the West exhausts possibilities short of war to get Iran to end its suspected nuclear weapons program.
“He’s almost sounded like he’s more frightened that Israel might take military action than he’s concerned that Iran might become nuclear,” Romney said of Obama. “I would make it very clear that for us, as well as for them, it is unacceptable for Iran to become a nuclear nation and that we’re prepared to take any and all action to keep that from happening.”
The Romney campaign has said that Obama should do more to make clear that a military option is available should Iran forge ahead with its nuclear enrichment, which the Islamic Republic insists is for peaceful purposes.
Romney said his “overarching” message was that “I would not want to show a dime’s worth of distance between ourselves and our allies like Israel. If we have disagreements, you know, we can talk about them behind closed doors. But to the world, you show that we’re locked arm in arm.”
Obama in the first two years of his administration strongly criticized Israeli settlement expansion in the West Bank and eastern Jerusalem. In May 2011 he called for Israel to negotiate on the basis of the 1967 lines, albeit with land swaps and a number of security guarantees for Israel.
The Obama campaign accused Romney of “playing politics with the U.S.-Israel relationship” and released a sheet of Obama’s pro-Israel actions, including funding for Israel’s anti-missile programs and expanding security cooperation, as well as blocking anti-Israel moves at the United Nations.
Referring to Romney’s “do the opposite” pledge, Ben LaBolt, Obama’s campaign press secretary, asked, “Does that mean he would reverse President Obama’s policies of sending Israel the largest security assistance packages in history? Does it mean he would let Israel stand alone at the United Nations, or that he would stop funding the Iron Dome system? Does it mean he would abandon the coalition working together to confront Iran’s nuclear ambitions?
“Mitt Romney is yet again trying to score cheap political points by distorting President Obama’s record of support for Israel,” LaBolt said. “Our relationship with Israel is too important for Gov. Romney to play politics with it.”