In an interview published Friday on the front page of Israel’s Haaretz daily, the candidate suggested that, if elected, he would take care to maintain a unified front with Israel.
“I believe that with regards to our allies, we are always wiser to lock arms and to stand as one for the world to see,” he said. “There will be, of course, times of disagreement and disparity in our respective interests — but those we are best in keeping to ourselves.”
Romney’s remark touched on a widespread perception here that the Obama administration has distanced itself, in policy terms, from its key ally in the Middle East. Romney’s apparent goal is to reassure voters back home — particularly American Jews and pro-Israeli evangelical Christian conservatives who have been wary of backing him — that he will be different.
As well as meeting with Israeli leaders and Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, Romney plans to hold a fundraiser, the first such event held in Israel for a candidate in a U.S. presidential campaign.
At $50,000 a couple, the breakfast event at Jerusalem’s King David Hotel is expected to include active American Jewish supporters, some of whom live part time in Israel, as well as local backers.
Obama received only about a quarter of the votes cast by Americans living in Israel in 2008, according to a post-election survey. That reflected the orientation of many recent immigrants from the United States, who tend to be religiously observant and politically conservative. To those voters, the first-term record of Obama — who visited Israel as a candidate but not while in office — confirmed their early suspicions.
“People here feel that [Obama] has not had the level of warmth toward Israel that most presidents have had,” said Abe Katsman, a Jerusalem attorney who serves as counsel to Republicans Abroad Israel.
The complaints of Romney backers here center on positions that have put Washington at odds with Netanyahu: an insistence early in Obama’s term on a freeze on Israeli settlement building in the West Bank and East Jerusalem; a statement that a peace agreement with the Palestinians should be based on Israel’s 1967 boundaries, with “mutually agreed” land swaps; and an approach to Iran that is seen as not tough enough, engaging in protracted diplomacy while warning Israel against a unilateral military strike.
“This idea of putting daylight between the U.S. government and Israel — who does that to an ally?” Katsman said. “And why make the disagreement public?”