By: Fern Sidman
Speaking in Jerusalem before the Jerusalem Foundation on Sunday, July 29th, presumptive Republivan nominee Mitt Romney recalled the painful history of the Jewish nation as he took note of the catastrophes that occurred on the 9th day in the Hebrew month of Av (Tisha B’Av).
“It’s remarkable to consider how much adversity, over so great a span of time, is recalled by just one day on the calendar. This is a day of remembrance and mourning, but like other such occasions, it also calls forth clarity and resolve,” he said. Remembering the words of late Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin on the meaning of Tisha B’Av, Governor Romney, said, “We remember that day,” he (Begin) said, “and now have the responsibility to make sure that never again will our independence be destroyed and never again will the Jew become homeless or defenseless.” “This,” Prime Minister Begin added, “is the crux of the problems facing us in the future.”
Arriving in Israel on Saturday evening, Romney marked the second leg of his overseas tour which has included a trip to London where he and his wife, Ann, were spectators at the opening ceremonies of the 30th Olympiad. Governor Romney will also be visiting Poland following his departure from Israel on Monday. While there, he is expected to meet with anti-Communist leader, Lech Walesa.
Romney held private meetings with both Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Israeli President Shimon Peres on Sunday morning and joined the Prime Minister at his residence for the traditional break-fast meal following the fast of Tisha B’Av. Skirting American politics and the upcoming presidential race, Prime Minister Netanyahu was careful not to endorse either candidate. “I greet Mitt Romney with great respect, just as I greeted then Senator Barack Obama when he visited Israel on the eve of the 2008 presidential race,” said Netanyahu.
On Friday, July 27th, President Obama signed the United States-Israel Enhanced Security Cooperation Act of 2012, a piece of legislation ratified by Congress which provides a $70 million military aid package to Israel. The aid will go towards the expansion of Israel’s Iron Dome short-range rocket defense system. Political observers have speculated that the timing of the bill’s signage was an overt attempt by Obama to upstage Romney’s visit to Israel.
Speaking of the unique relationship that America shares with Israel, Romney said, “It is my firm conviction that the security of Israel is in the vital national security interest of the United States. And ours is an alliance based not only on shared interests but also on enduring shared values.” He added that, “We’re part of the great fellowship of democracies. We speak the same language of freedom and justice, and the right of every person to live in peace. We serve the same cause and provoke the same hatreds in the same enemies of civilization.”
Addressing the issue of a nuclear empowered Iran, Romney stated unequivocally, “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.” He added that, “When Iran’s leaders deny the Holocaust or speak of wiping this nation off the map, only the naive – 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. It would be foolish not to take Iran’s leaders at their word. They are, after all, the product of a radical theocracy.”
Offering a historical overview of Iran’s bellicosity towards America, Israel and the Western world, Romney said, “Over the years Iran has amassed a bloody and brutal record. It has seized embassies, targeted diplomats, and killed its own people. It supports the ruthless Assad regime in Syria. They have provided weapons that have killed American soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq. It has plotted to assassinate diplomats on American soil. It is Iran that is the leading state sponsor of terrorism and the most destabilizing nation in the world. We have a solemn duty and a moral imperative to deny Iran’s leaders the means to follow through on their malevolent intentions.”
Taking on President Obama directly regarding his position on allowing Iran to possess nuclear weapons, but limiting their use, Romney said, “We must not delude ourselves into thinking that containment is an option. We must lead the effort to prevent Iran from building and possessing nuclear weapons capability. 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.” Giving his tacit approval of a possible Israeli strike on Iranian nuclear facilities, Romney declared, “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.”
As the status of Jerusalem in future peace negotiations with the Palestinian Authority remains a hot button issue for both America and Israel, Romney summed up his position on this matter to thunderous applause. “It is a deeply moving experience to be in Jerusalem, the capital of Israel.”
In the wake of the maelstrom surrounding the International Olympic Committee’s decision not to accord a moment of silence for the 11 Israeli athletes who were murdered by the terrorist group, Black September, at the 1972 Olympic games in Munich, Romney noted this and other terrorist attacks against Jews. “At this time, we also remember the 11 Israeli athletes and coaches who were massacred at the Munich Olympics forty years ago. Ten years ago this week, 9 Israeli and American students were murdered in the terrorist attack at Hebrew University. And tragedies like these are not reserved to the past. They are a constant reminder of the reality of hate, and the will with which it is executed upon the innocent.”
Referring to the recent elections held in Egypt, Romney called Muhammed Morsi an “Islamist president” and said that, “the international community must use its considerable influence to ensure that the new government honors the peace agreement with Israel that was signed by the government of Anwar Sadat.” Saying that the Middle East finds itself in “rising tumult and chaos,” Romney noted the escalating civil war in Syria and referred to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad as “the dictator in Damascus” saying that he is “no friend to Israel and no friend to America. He slaughters his own people as he desperately clings to power.”
“With Hezbollah rockets aimed at Israel from the north, and Hamas rockets aimed from the south, with much of the Middle East in tumult, and with Iran bent on nuclear arms, America’s vocal and demonstrated commitment to the defense of Israel is even more critical. Whenever the security of Israel is most in doubt, America’s commitment to Israel must be most secure,” he said.