Without specifically criticizing President Obama in his speech in Jerusalem, Mitt Romney delivered a blow to the Obama campaign’s frantic efforts to defend the president’s hostile stance toward the Jewish state simply by saying: “It is a deeply moving experience to be in Jerusalem, the capital of Israel.” The Obama administration can’t even say that much, a sign of how reflectively protective of the Palestinians’ sensibilities is this president. Of course, Jerusalem is the capital. It was declared so in 1948. The Knesset is there. The disposition of its borders is a matter for final status negotiation, but only an uninformed or virulently insensitive administration would be unable to distinguish the two.
In a bit of cleverness the Romney team sent out the text of the speech with this header: “Mitt Romney today delivered remarks to the Jerusalem Foundation in Jerusalem, Israel.” That is a deliberate dig at this administration. which has repeatedly put out documents suggesting that Jerusalem isn’t in Israel and has attempted to scrub from the White House Web site the reference to Israel’s capital.
Romney’s speech paid tribute to America’s historic relationship with Israel. (“Different as our paths have been, we see the same qualities in one another. Israel and America are in many respects reflections of one another.”)
It also was a forceful rebuke to Obama on a number of levels. First on Iran:
Over the years Iran has amassed a bloody and brutal record. It has seized embassies, targeted diplomats, and killed its own people. It supports the ruthless Assad regime in Syria. They have provided weapons that have killed American soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq. It has plotted to assassinate diplomats on American soil. It is Iran that is the leading state sponsor of terrorism and the most destabilizing nation in the world.
We have a solemn duty and a moral imperative to deny Iran’s leaders the means to follow through on their malevolent intentions.
We should stand with all who would join our effort to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran — and that includes Iranian dissidents. Do not erase from your memory the scenes from three years ago, when that regime brought death to its own people as they rose up. The threat we face does not come from the Iranian people, but from the regime that oppresses them.
Five years ago, at the Herzliya Conference, I stated my view that Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons capability presents an intolerable threat to Israel, to America, and to the world.
That threat has only become worse.
He also pushed back on Obama’s notion that because he’s been supportive of Israel with military assistance he can be credited with a good record on Israel:
I believe that the enduring alliance between the State of Israel and the United States of America is more than a strategic alliance: It is a force for good in the world. America’s support of Israel should make every American proud. We should not allow the inevitable complexities of modern geopolitics to obscure fundamental touchstones. No country or organization or individual should ever doubt this basic truth: A free and strong America will always stand with a free and strong Israel.
And standing by Israel does not mean with military and intelligence cooperation alone.
We cannot stand silent as those who seek to undermine Israel voice their criticisms. And we certainly should not join in that criticism. Diplomatic distance in public between our nations emboldens Israel’s adversaries.
And he delivered an implicit warning about Egypt:
After a year of upheaval and unrest, Egypt now has an Islamist president, chosen in a democratic election. Hopefully, this new government understands that one true measure of democracy is how those elected by the majority respect the rights of those in the minority. The international community must use its considerable influence to ensure that the new government honors the peace agreement with Israel that was signed by the government of Anwar Sadat.
As you know only too well, since Hamas took control of the Gaza Strip in 2007, thousands of rockets have rained on Israeli homes and cities. I have walked on the streets of Sderot and honor the resolve of its people. And now, new attacks have been launched from the Sinai Peninsula.
It was a forceful and thoughtful address signaling how his own attitude with Israel differs from Obama. No wonder Democrats are frantic.
Obama’s ablest surrogate to the Jewish community, Dennis Ross, is conspicuously sitting out the election. (He couldn’t even bring himself to say in the present tense that he supports Obama’s Israel policy.) Those pro-Israel Democrats who vouched for Obama in 2008 are now desperate to concoct criticisms of Romney (see my exchange with Jeffrey Goldberg), even for the moving symbolism of visiting the Kotel (the wall of the Second Temple) on the day mourning its destruction, Tisha A’Bav. (Romney noted: “It was Menachem Begin who said this about the Ninth of the month of Av: ‘We remember that day,’ he said, ‘and now have the responsibility to make sure that never again will our independence be destroyed and never again will the Jew become homeless or defenseless.’ This, Prime Minister Begin added, “ ‘is the crux of the problems facing us in the future.’ ”)
That Romney would visit the site of the Second Temple’s destruction on the commemoration of its destruction, like going to Normandy cemeteries on D-Day, is a sign of great sensitivity. (Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu underlined this point by inviting him to break the fast on the mourning day at Bibi’s home).
Pro-Israel Democrats, like all supporters of the Jewish state, should be honest enough to acknowledge, as Aaron David Miller does, that Obama “is not in love with the idea of Israel.” He can’t even get along with its elected government. Romney, by contrast, is plainly an Israel-phile and already enjoys a close relationship with the prime minister. On this, Romney left little to the imagination.