Romney to Jewish donors: ‘I get Israeli briefings’


WASHINGTON (JTA) — Mitt Romney told donors attending his campaign’s Utah retreat that he is briefed on the Middle East by Israeli government officials.

About 50 of the 700 donors who attended the retreat over the weekend in Park City were Jewish, according to one in attendance.

Many of them attended a breakout session last Friday afternoon on the U.S.-Israel relationship, although between half and three-fourths of the 100 donors attending the session were not Jewish.

Romney dropped in on the session and said he had just been briefed by the Israeli ambassador, Michael Oren, speaking about the situation in Syria, the elections in Egypt and the effort to isolate Iran, among other issues.

Romney, the former Massachusetts governor and the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, said he has such conversations with Israeli officials to be kept up to date on the region.

Such briefings are not an unusual once it becomes clear who the major party candidates are.

Romney also spoke about where he believed he and Obama differed on Iran; Romney said he would be doing more to keep Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.

The United States is one of the major power in talks with Iran to make its suspected nuclear weapons program more transparent, and the Obama administration also is  encouraging the international community to intensify sanctions.

The U.S. also has made representations to Israel to dial back threats of military action, although Obama administration officials have said that all options will be used to keep Iran from acquiring a bomb. Republicans have said that making clear such threats is the likeliest avenue to an Iranian retreat on the matter.

Addressing the U.S.-Israel session were William Kristol, a founder of the Emergency Committee for Israel that recently ran ads accusing Obama of not doing enough to stop Iran; Michael Chertoff, the Bush administration Homeland Security secretary, who is Jewish; and Norm Coleman, the former U.S. senator from Minnesota, who is also Jewish.

To attend the retreat, donors either had to have donated $50,000 to the campaign or raised $250,000.

GOP stars such as tactician Karl Rove, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), Sen Jon Thune (R-S.D.) and Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.), the U.S. House of Representatives majority leader, were in attendance, a sign of a unified front following a rough primaries campaign.

There was kosher food on hand and a Shabbat dinner for Jewish attendees.

Park City was the site of the 2002 Winter Olympics, the event that Romney turned into a success after early signs of a possible fiasco. His leadership there sent him to national prominence.

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