Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu told American GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney on Sunday that sanctions and diplomacy has done nothing to change Iran's headlong rush towards nuclear capability.
Prior to entering a meeting between the two men in Jerusalem Sunday, Netanyahu and Romney spoke with reporters for a few minutes, and both referred to the Iranian nuclear threat to the world, and to terrorism.
“I think it's important to do everything in our power to prevent the Ayatollahs from possessing [nuclear] capability,” commented Netanyahu. “We have to be honest and say that truth and diplomacy have not set back the Iranian program by one iota. That's why I believe we need a strong and credible military threat coupled with the sanctions to have a chance to change that situation.”
Of one thing the U.S. could be sure, however, Netanyahu added: “In this great convulsion there is one stable democratic ally of the US here in the Middle East, and that's Israel.”
Even though he told every news program in the United States that he would not take sides in the upcoming presidential elections, Netanyahu appeared to give a boost to Romney nevertheless. Referring to Israel as the “champion of democracy in the Middle East” as he welcomed his old friend from earlier days, he said that he believed Romney's visit was an “expression of both our people in the interest in peace, and the desire to strengthen the relationship between our two countries.”
Romney responded by saying he was honored to be in Israel on the day of Tisha B'Av to “recognize the solemnity of the day … and the suffering of the Jewish people.” He noted the “recognition of the sacrifices of so many, and that “the tragedies of wanton killing are not only things of the past but have darkened our skies in even more recent times.
"Your perspectives with regards to Iran and its effort to become a nuclear-capable nation are ones which I take with great seriousness and look forward to chatting with you about further actions that we can take to dissuade Iran from their nuclear folly. Your perspectives also with regards to the developments throughout the region – in Syria, Egypt and other nations – will be most helpful.
"We have a relationship between our nations which spans many years, and at the same time, is one based not just upon mutual interests, but also shared values," Romney added.
"Like Israel, we share a commitment to democracy, to freedom of speech, to freedom of association, to the preservation of human rights; and these common values and common principles have caused our nations to draw closer over the years. And 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."
One of Romney's senior aides meanwhile told reporters that the former Massachusetts governor would back a strike on Iran if Israel decided that was necessary. "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's senior national security aide Dan Senor told journalists traveling with the candidate.
After meeting with Netanyahu, Romney also met with President Shimon Peres, and with Opposition Leader Shaul Mofaz. He was also scheduled to meet with Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad.