Mitt Romney is often accused of pandering. While his change on abortion was certainly politically advantageous to his 2008 presidential run, he’s actually resisted the pander-urge on several issues this year, the biggest being Romneycare. He’s done the same on Israel. Unlike Newt Gingrich, for example, he’s not insulted Jewish audiences by playing on two emotional issues with pie-in-the-sky promises.
Adam Kredo reports on Romney’s off-the-record (not any more) session with the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations:
“He answered [questions] very frankly,” said one attendee.
On the topic of [Jonathan]Pollard, Romney said that he “was open to examining” the issue, but stopped short of saying that he would free the spy from federal prison, the source said.
When asked if he would move the U.S. embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem — a promise that Republican presidential candidates make with ease (but ultimately break once in office) — Romney said that he would “consult with the government of Israel” before he makes a final decision.
“It’s easy for me to promise, but it’s something I would consult with the government [of Israel] on,” Romney said, according to my source.
Well you can say he was pandering by not pandering, I guess. (Kredo writes: “Most attendees, I’m told, reacted ‘very positively,’ to Romney’s remarks. ‘He spoke about Israel in a convincing way. . .[and] didn’t just play to the audience,’ the source said.”) But credit should be given for restraint.
On Pollard, there is a great deal of classified material that would need to be examined and a complex set of considerations on U.S.-Israel relations before a president rendered a decision. Some prominent figures on both sides of the aisle have urged President Obama to take action. But for Romney, making a snap decision, or saying as Gingrich did, that he’s largely made up his mind, would be rash. As with any pardon, it’s unwise and vaguely inappropriate for a presidential candidate to make promises.
As for Jerusalem, it really is time to stop promising something that the U.S. can’t and shouldn’t deliver unilaterally. If we want to maintain our role as a future broker in the (however presently dormant) “peace process,” we’re not going to make a move that will be read as a fait accompli on the final status of Jerusalem. For a presidential candidate, this is about judgment, restraint and having the good sense to imagine one might actually win and want options.
Friends of Israel should be pleased with the majority of the GOP presidential candidates’ views on Israel. And they should respect candidates (Texas Gov. Rick Perry is one of them) who think seriously about the issues and don’t make impulsive promises.