Mitt Romney told donors attending his campaign’s Utah retreat that he is briefed on the Middle East by Israeli government officials, JTA reported.
About 50 of the 700 donors who attended the retreat this weekend in Park City were Jewish, according to one in attendance. Many of these attended a breakout session Friday afternoon on the U.S.-Israel relationship, although between half and three quarters of the 100 donors attending the session were not Jewish.
Romney dropped in on the session, and said he had just been briefed by the Israeli ambassador, Michael Oren, speaking about, among other issues, the situation in Syria, the elections in Egypt and the effort to isolate Iran.
The Romney campaign charges that President Obama and his administration “have badly misunderstood the dynamics of the region,” and that “instead of fostering stability and security, they have diminished U.S. authority and painted both Israel and ourselves into a corner.”
But although the Romney campaign presents itself as more sympathetic to Israel than the Democratic Administration, it nevertheless supports the same two-state solution as does Obama.
The Romney campaign literature states that “with regard to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Mitt’s policy will differ sharply from President Obama’s,” but continues to state that “as president, Mitt will reject any measure that would frustrate direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. He will make clear to the Palestinians that the unilateral attempt to decide issues that are designated for final negotiations by the Oslo Accords is unacceptable.”
Essentially, it means that Romney endorses Oslo, but with a better behaved Palestinian partner. And although his campaign threatens that “the United States will reduce assistance to the Palestinians if they continue to pursue United Nations recognition or form a unity government that includes Hamas,” it still envisions a reality in which a more compliant Palestinian Authority will be rewarded with a state.
Romney, the former Massachusetts governor and the Republican presidential nominee, said he has regular conversations with Israeli officials to be kept up to date on the region.
Such briefings are not an unusual once it becomes clear who the major party candidates are.
Romney also spoke about where he believed he and Obama differed on Iran; Romney said he would be doing more to keep Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.
The Obama administration is currently part of major power talks with Iran to make its suspected nuclear weapons program more transparent, and is also encouraging the international community to intensify sanctions.
It has also made representations to Israel to dial back threats of military action, although Obama administration officials have said that all options will be used to keep Iran from acquiring a bomb. Republicans have said that making such threats clear is the likeliest avenue to an Iranian retreat on the matter.
Addressing the U.S.-Israel session were William Kristol, Jewish founder of the Emergency Committee for Israel which recently ran ads accusing Obama of not doing enough to stop Iran; Michael Chertoff, the Bush administration Homeland Security Secretary, a Jew; and Norm Coleman, the former U.S. senator from Minnesota, also Jewish.
To attend the retreat, donors either had to have donated $50,000 to the campaign or had to have raised $250,000.
GOP stars such as tactician Karl Rove, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), Sen Jon Thune (R-S.D.) and Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.), the U.S. House of Representatives majority leader, were in attendance, a sign of a unified front after a rough primaries campaign.
There was kosher food on hand, and a Shabbat dinner for Jewish attendees.
Park City was the site of the 2002 Winter Olympics, the event that Romney turned around into a success after early signs of a possible fiasco, and that shot him to national fame.