Elliott Abrams, former deputy foreign policy adviser, picked up on something in the delivery of Mitt Romney’s Jerusalem speech:
Romney added something to his text in Jerusalem: “I love this country, I love America, I love the friendship we have.” That line does not appear in any prepared text the news media have carried, suggesting that Romney added it late in the drafting process or even while speaking. Like his other lines, it does not directly challenge U.S. policy or criticize the president, but it sets the two men apart; I have been unable to find any similar line from the president. On all three issues, it will be interesting to see in the next few days how this debate continues — and who carries it on, given that Mr. Obama’s most credible spokesman [former adviser Dennis Ross] in the Jewish community has now said he will not be active in this year’s campaign.
That, coupled with Romney’s comments on Jerusalem, suggest what a difference a president can make. It is not merely the letter of the policy — although that is important — but the tone and empathy toward the Jewish state conveyed from the top, which is critical to the U.S.-Israeli relationship. (As an aside, who can blame Ross for trying to walk the tightrope between loyalty to a president he served and rehabilitating his own reputation?)
Despite Obama-defenders’ attempt to suggest Obama would be as “good for Israel” as Romney, we now have a track record by which to assess Obama. As Abrams points out, “Romney did not deny that security relations are very good, but argued that looking at the numbers does not give a full picture of American support for, or failure to support, Israel. This harks back to George W. Bush’s desire that there be no ‘daylight’ between the two governments and President Obama’s view that such a stance impedes progress toward peace.”
It is frankly inconceivable that Romney would have insulted Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to another foreign leader, or surprised Netanyahu with a speech asserting it was now the position of the United States that negotiations should begin with the “1967 borders” (which don’t exist and incorrectly describe the “1949 Armistice lines”), or “condemned” Israel for issuing building permits in the capital, or failed to distinguish between building in Jerusalem and “settlements,” or strong-armed Netanyahu into committing to a unilateral settlement freeze, or failed to adhere to a written agreement between a U.S. president and Israeli prime minister (which Congress overwhelmingly ratified).
The reason Obama has a problem with pro-Israel voters is not the result of “exploitation” or misunderstanding. It is because of what Obama has said and done since he was elected. Romney certainly made the case he will be a different and unabashedly pro-Israel president. Really, does anyone seriously doubt he’d get along better than Obama has with elected government of Israel?