Romney takes aim at Iran during trip to Israel

July 30, 2012

By Meredith Mandell, and Jackie Kucinich, USA Today

JERUSALEM – Preventing a nuclear Iran is the “highest national security priority” for theU.S., Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney said Sunday, and “no option should be excluded” in that pursuit.

With the backdrop of Jerusalem’s Old City behind him, Romney sought to strike an aggressive tone and vowed to “stay together and stand together” with Israel as it faces threats from neighboring countries.

Romney’s toughest talk was directed at Iran.

“We should employ any and all measures to dissuade the Iranian regime from its nuclear course, and it is our fervent hope that diplomatic and economic measures will do so,” Romney said. “In the final analysis, of course, no option should be excluded. We recognize Israel’s right to defend itself, and that it is right for America to stand with you.”

While his speech did not directly criticize President Obama— Romney refused to do so while on “foreign soil” — it did have a few indirect jabs.

“We cannot stand silent as those who seek to undermine Israel, voice their criticisms. And we certainly should not join in that criticism,” he said, a veiled reference to the sometime icy relationship between Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. “Diplomatic distance in public between our nations emboldens Israel’s adversaries.”

In the U.S. however, the Republican National Committeeand the Romney campaign spelled out what Romney did not. The RNC sent out a list of newspaper clips detailing the friction between Obama and Netanyahu, and the Romney campaign sent an late afternoon e-mail titled “President Obama’s hypocrisy on protecting our allies.”

Beyond the tone of his speech, it was unclear how Romney’s Israel policy would differ from Obama’s. Romney said he supported a “two state” solution to the decades-old problem between Israel and the Palestinians, just as Obama and his predecessors have. During an interview with CBS News, Romney declined to answer a question about what he would do differently from Obama.

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