A senior aide to U.S. Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney said on Sunday that Romney would “respect” an Israeli decision to use a military strike to deter Iran from developing nuclear weapons, according to Reuters.
Dan Senor, Romney’s national security aide and co-author of the book Start-Up Nation: The Story of Israel’s Economic Miracle, spoke to reporters shortly before the Presidential hopeful was scheduled to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Senor was quoted as saying: “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 believes “”we should employ any and all measures to dissuade the Iranian regime from its nuclear course,” Senor continued, and “recognizes Israel’s right to defend itself, and that it is right for America to stand with it.”
The comment is understood as an attempt by the Romney campaign to distinguish the Republican candidate from President Barack Obama on a hot-button issue; Obama has been vigorous in trying to dissuade Israel from taking military action against Iran, asserting instead that economic sanctions should be allowed to run their course.
A short while later, the former Massachusetts Governor met Netanyahu at the Prime Minister’s Office. Netanyahu welcomed Romney to Israel, and wasted no time delving into the Iran nuclear standoff: “I heard some of your remarks a few days ago – you said that the greatest danger facing the world is of the Ayatollah regime possessing nuclear weapons capability. Mitt, I couldn’t agree with you more, and I think it’s important to do everything in our power to prevent the Ayatollahs from possessing the capability.”
Appearing to take a shot at Obama’s policy on Iran, Netanyahu said: “We have to be honest and say that all the sanctions and diplomacy so far have not set back the Iranian program by one iota. And that’s why I believe that we need a strong and credible military threat, coupled with the sanctions, to have a chance to change that situation.”
Romney responded by saying that he was “honored to be here on the day of Tisha B’Av, to recognize the solemnity of the day and also the suffering of the Jewish people over the centuries and the millennia, and come with recognition of the sacrifices of so many.
“Unfortunately,” he continued, “the tragedies of wanton killing are not only things of the past, but have darkened our skies in even more recent times.”
Turning to Iran, Romney did not refer to Senor’s comments but said: “as we face the challenges of an Iran seeking nuclear capability, we must draw upon our interests and our values to take them on a different course and to assure that people recognize throughout the world that the United States and Israel are bound in our commitments to one another.”
After his meeting with Netanyahu, Romney met with President Shimon Peres and Kadima Chairman Shaul mofaz before visiting the Western Wall.
Reuters obtained excepts of a speech Romney was to deliver on Sunday evening, in which he planned to speak in greater detail about the need to face the Iranian nuclear threat with steadfast determination.
“When Iran’s leaders deny the Holocaust or speak of wiping this nation off the map, only the naïve – or worse – will dismiss it as an excess of rhetoric,” he is expected to say. “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…. 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.”
Information from Reuters was used in this article.