Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney pledged not to directly criticize President Obama during his overseas trip – yet in a keynote foreign policy speech today he delivered tough, although implicit, words about Obama’s handling of Israel.
Delivering his remarks against the backdrop of Jerusalem’s Old City walls, Romney drew contrasts with Obama on a range of issues.
Where Obama had told Jewish leaders in 2009 that he sought to put "daylight" between the U.S. and Israel, Romney said today, "you can’t get much closer to the ideals and convictions of my own country than you do in Israel."
Where Obama has had a contentious relationship with the Israeli prime minister, Romney referred to "my friend Benjamin Netanyahu."
Where Obama administration officials and campaign surrogates have warned Israel against striking Iran’s nuclear facilities, Romney pledged American support: "We recognize Israel's right to defend itself, and that it is right for America to stand with you."
In recent days, the Obama administration has come under fire for refusing to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Romney said near the top of his speech, "It is a deeply moving experience to be in Jerusalem, the capital of Israel."
Yet the strongest criticism of the Obama administration was reserved for Romney’s concluding words, where he appeared to rebuke Obama’s oft-repeated claim that he has been a strong ally of Israel owing to his support for military assistance.
"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," Romney said. "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," he said.
Implicitly criticizing the Obama administration’s many public clashes with and condemnations of Israel, Romney concluded: "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."