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UPDATE: Mitt Romney delivered what the Washington Post qualifies as a “muscular speech” from a balcony overlooking the Old City of Jerusalem Sunday saying that the United States and Israel must use “any and all measures” to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons. “We must not delude ourselves into thinking that containment is an option,” Romney said.
In a memorable moment of the speech, Romney unequivocally called Jerusalem Israel’s capital, which is in line with what the Israeli government has long claimed, but the United States, along with other countries, has its embassy in Tel Aviv. Romney strongly suggested the embassy should move to Jerusalem during an interview with CNN.
"A nation has the capacity to choose its own capital city, and Jerusalem is Israel's capital," Romney told CNN. "I think it's long been the policy to ultimately have our embassy in the nation's capital of Jerusalem."
A U.S. law passed in 1995 states that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel and says the embassy should move there, but three presidents have signed waivers suspending the law, points out CNN.
Although Romney didn’t directly criticize Obama in his speech, he did hint a criticism saying that “diplomatic distance in public between our nations emboldens Israel’s adversaries,” reports Reuters.
Sunday, July 29 at 12:30 p.m.: It seems Mitt Romney just can’t catch a break. The presidential candidate’s stop in Jerusalem was supposed to help turn the page from what ended up being a disastrous, gaffe-filled stay in London. Yet on his first day of meetings in Jerusalem, the former governor of Massachusetts found himself in the awkward position of walking back one of his aide’s statements, highlighting once again what seems to be disorganization in his campaign and message during his overseas trip.
Previewing a speech Mitt Romney is set to deliver in Jerusalem’s Old City, senior adviser Dan Senor told reporters that Romney would support a unilateral strike against Iran to prevent the country from obtaining nuclear weapons, reports the Washington Post. “It is an existential threat and we in the West partnering with Israel should do everything we can from stopping Iran from developing that weapons capability,” Senor said. “And if Israel has to take action on its own, in order to stop Iran from developing that capability, the governor would respect that decision.”
Romney seemed to recognize this could be construed as him disagreeing with U.S. foreign policy while abroad, and he quickly tracked back. "Because I'm on foreign soil, I don't want to be creating new foreign policy for my country or in any way to distance myself from the foreign policy of our nation, but we respect the right of a nation to defend itself," Romney said, according to the Associated Press.
Senor himself later issued a written statement clarifying his remarks, noting that Romney believes “any and all measures” should be used to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons and “in the final analysis … no option should be excluded.”
Meanwhile, Israeli liberal daily Haaretz reported Sunday that National Security Adviser Tom Donilon had briefed Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on a U.S. plan to attack Iran if diplomacy fails to stop its nuclear program. A senior Israeli official denied the report, saying “nothing in the article is correct,” reports Reuters.
Before arriving in Israel, Romney gave two interviews to Hebrew newspapers, and in one of them he didn't quite stick to the convention of not criticizing the administration while traveling abroad, notes Israel’s +972, an Internet magazine. Although he was careful to not criticize Obama in his Haaretz interview, he was less guarded in his interview with Yisrael Hayom, the most widely read daily in Israel that just happens to be owned by Sheldon Adelson, one of Romney’s biggest donors.
“I cannot imagine going to the United Nations, as Obama did, and criticizing Israel in front of the world,” Romney told Yisrael Hayom. “You don’t criticize your allies in public to achieve the applause of your foes.”
Saturday, July 28: After the gaffe-filled London stop, Mitt Romney is likely happy to get out of there and move on to the next stop in his overseas trip. What was supposed to be a low-key stop in London ended up turning into a public relations nightmare when he questioned whether Britain was ready to host the Olympic Games. The problem seemed to be that Romney didn’t really have a strategy to convey his message back home, reports the Washington Post’s Philip Rucker. Romney’s top political advisers stayed home and seemed at a loss of how to salvage the situation. Now the pressure is on to perform in Israel and Poland.
The good news for Romney is that his Israel trip gives him a great opportunity to change the subject, points out Real Clear Politics’ Scott Conroy. Romney has long said that the U.S. relationship with Israel has deteriorated under President Obama and his 36-hour stay in Jerusalem will give the candidate a chance to show a commitment to the country. He's likely to be helped out by what everyone expects will be a warm welcome from Israeli leaders, points out the Associated Press. Still, Obama clearly tried to steal a bit of the spotlight Friday during a ceremony to sign into law a measure that not only expands aid for Israeli defense but also boosts military cooperation.
The trip comes at a time when Republicans are launching a huge effort to woo Jewish voters, hoping to use outside groups to increase skepticism of Obama among American Jews. Politico points out that the Republican Jewish Coalition has said it will spend more than $6 million to fund an ad campaign to convice Jews who supported Obama in 2008 to switch to Romney. Democrats, partly scared of Jewish casino magnate Sheldon Adelson’s deep pockets, are launching their own effort to defend Obama’s stance on Israel.
Obama won 78 percent of the Jewish vote in 2008, and while his support among Jews has been slipping, he is still far ahead of Mitt Romney. The latest Gallup poll notes that 68 percent of Jewish registered voters support Obama, versus 25 percent for Romney, reports the Hill. That marks a decline in support for Romney from June, when 29 percent expressed support for the Republican candidate.