Romney And Netanyahu Stick Mostly To Protocol, But Evade It Too
Both Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and his host, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, took part in a delicate ballet.
The Israeli prime minister does not want to appear to be playing favorites in the tight presidential race in the United States, while Mitt Romney had committed not to break new United States foreign policy while he was abroad. They mostly stuck to the script, but deviated sufficiently from it to get the point across.
Netanyahu, however, was just a bit warmer to Romney, in the same way that Barack Obama was very warm to Israeli President Shimon Peres, in order to get the point across subtly that he would prefer Peres' diplomatic approach over that of Netanyahu.
In welcoming Mitt Romney, Prime Minister Netanyahu had praise for Mitt Romney's comments about Iran on Thursday, while at the same time lamenting that negotiations with Iran had not moved the Islamic Republic an iota. An official Israeli spokesperson denied the story in Haaretz that the US had shared combat plans with Israel.
Inviting Mitt Romney to share the breaking of the Tisha B'Av fast was also a personal touch and was the equivalent of Barack Obama inviting British Prime Minister David Cameron to watch team USA in a pre-Olympic practice game. It represented going on beyond protocol and forging a more intimate relationship.
Romney responded in kind. If the Obama administration had tried to put daylight between itself and Israel in order to portray itself to the Arab side as an "evenhanded broker", Romney slammed that approach by claiming that it only served to encourage Israel's adversaries.
The most newsworthy part of Romney's visit was the attention lavished on Jerusalem and describing the Western Wall not just as a sanctified wishing well where one can lodge a prayer among the stones, but as a remnant of the lost Temple.
Then there was the unequivocal statement mentioning Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. After Obama's Press Secretary Jay Carney was evasive on the issue of Israel's capital, one can easily envision a spot targeted at Jewish voters contrasting the two positions. The ad essentially writes itself.
Netanyahu was of course quick to pick up on Mitt Romney's statement, responding: " I would like to thank you for your strong words of support for Israel and Jerusalem that we heard today in your address next to the walls of Jerusalem."