Republican presidential contender Mitt Romney arrived in Israel to a warm welcome yesterday, and met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Shimon Peres in the capital city of Jerusalem today. Romney's warm connection with Netanyahu--whom he has known for decades--was evident. The Romney campaign emphasized that unlike incumbent President Barack Obama, a Romney administration would support a pre-emptive Israeli strike on Iran's nuclear facilities, should that become a necessity for Israel.
In remarks prepared for delivery, Romney stated:
When Iran’s leaders deny the Holocaust or speak of wiping this nation off the map, only the naïve – or worse – will dismiss it as an excess of rhetoric. Make no mistake: the ayatollahs in Tehran are testing our moral defenses. They want to know who will object, and who will look the other way.
My message to the people of Israel and the leaders of Iran is one and the same: I will not look away; and neither will my country. As Prime Minister Begin put it, in vivid and haunting words, “if an enemy of [the Jewish] people says he seeks to destroy us, believe him.”
We have seen the horrors of history. We will not stand by. We will not watch them play out again.
Romney was careful to honor his pledge to avoid direct criticism of President Barack Obama abroad. He also noted the solemnity of the day of his visit, which is observed by Jews as the anniversary of the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians and the Romans.
Netanyahu stressed that sanctions and international talks had failed to deter the Iranian regime: "We have to be honest and say that all the diplomacy and sanctions and diplomacy so far have not set back the Iranian program by one iota." Romney also emphasized the threat of a nuclear Iran, as well as common bonds between Israel and the United States.
In addition to Peres, Romney met with other government officials, though canceled a meeting with opposition leader Shelly Yachimovich--a decision that Yachimovich's Labor Party blamed on political considerations and prompting from within the Israeli government.