On Sunday Mitt Romney took the fight for the American Jewish (and Evangelical) vote to Israel, a country most American Jews have never visited. His target—a large and convenient one—was Barack Obama’s record of behavior toward the Jewish state.
Even so, there’s no possibility that Romney will get most of the Jewish vote in November, something no Republican presidential candidate has ever done. But a Gallup poll released Friday has American Jewish support for Obama slipping from 78% in 2008 to 68% at present, and Romney—along with his concerns about shoring up his stature with the Evangelicals—hopes to woo enough Jewish voters, particularly in swing states like Florida and Ohio, to make a difference in November.
Even before arriving, Romney told Israeli media that as president he would treat Israel publicly much better than Obama has. As he said to the daily Israel Hayom:
I would treat Israel like the friend and ally it is…. And if there were places where we disagree, I would hold these disagreements in private conversations, not in public forums. I cannot imagine going to the United Nations, as Obama did, and criticizing Israel in front of the world. I believe that he should have mentioned instead the thousands of rockets that are being fired from the Gaza Strip into Israel.
And it was not just a matter, he went on to say, of propriety, but also of policy, and of respecting Israel’s autonomy as a country:
The president has also spoken of returning to 1967 borders—they are indefensible. And acting as a negotiator and usurping the primary role played by Israel in negotiating for its own future is not the right course for America to take.
Asked about Iran, Romney replied that he was
commit[ted] to take whatever action is necessary to prevent Iran from becoming nuclear. A nuclear Iran is a threat to America and to the world….
Iran is closer to nuclearization than it was when President Obama took office. It is hard to feel that the events of the last three and a half years have strengthened America’s posture and promoted the prospects of peace.
On that score Romney was well received in Israel on Sunday by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, with whom he has a personal friendship going back to the 1970s when they both worked for the Boston Consulting Group. “I heard some of your remarks,” Netanyahu told the candidate,
and you said that the greatest danger facing the world is the ayatollah regime possessing nuclear weapons capability. Mitt, I couldn’t agree with you more, and I think it is important to do everything in our power to prevent the ayatollahs from possessing that capability. We have to be honest and say that all the diplomacy and sanctions…so far have not set back the Iranian program by one iota.
No mention of Obama by name there, but again, it hardly constitutes praise for his policy.