Romney, we want more of Obama’s positions on Israel, not less
It’s hard to fault President Obama’s positive engagement with Israel in terms of security aid, diplomatic engagement, and even saving individual Israeli lives. So why does Mitt Romney say he’ll “do the opposite” of Obama on Israel?
It's early in the 2012 general election cycle and already, the presumptive GOP nominee Mitt Romney has been ridiculed for his blatant twisting of the truth. Recently, Romney charged that government spending under Obamacare would soon consume 50% of GDP and FactCheck.org responded by saying this charge was "pure partisan fantasy" and "patently false and misleading." Former Reagan advisor Bruce Bartlett found fault with the Romney reasoning by saying "[t]his analysis is so stupid it is hard to know where to begin."
Now Romney has taken his outrageous campaign rhetoric to a new level of hyperbole. Romney told religious conservatives he would do "the opposite" of what President Barack Obama has done on Israel. Which raises the question: what has the President done, and what would Romney change?
Let's start with the facts. Under President Obama, security assistance to Israel has increased to unprecedented levels. The Administration has dramatically increased funding for the Iron Dome system - which has already saved Israeli lives from the terror of Hamas rockets. The President has given Israel access to our most sophisticated military systems, like the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, and initiated the largest joint exercise between the U.S. and Israeli militaries. While working to strengthen Israel's security, the President has insisted that any future Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza be demilitarized.
Following the Romney plan and doing the opposite would mean, simply, a less secure Israel.
There's more. The Obama Administration has fought for Israel's inclusion in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. It has vetoed every UN resolution condemning Israel and defended Israel against the Goldstone Report. It boycotted the anti-Israel Durban II Conference and stood up for Israel in the wake of the Gaza Flotilla incident when no one else would.
The President has demanded that Palestinians negotiate directly with Israel, rather than pursue a misguided and dangerous statehood strategy at the UN. Meanwhile, he has refused to recognize Hamas until it renounces terrorism, accepts Israel's right to exist, and abides by all prior agreements between Israel and the Palestinians.
Doing the opposite would only serve to weaken Israel's hand in diplomacy and on the global stage.
Going above and beyond the realms of security aid and diplomatic engagement, President Obama has acted - swiftly and forcefully, in moments of imminent danger - to save individual Israeli lives.
To take one example: when Israelis faced an angry mob at their embassy in Cairo and Prime Minister Netanyahu called the White House in the middle of the night for help, President Obama didn't hesitate to act. He took the initiative, called the Egyptian military leadership immediately, protected the Israelis from harm, and got them home safely.
And in the face of the threat of a nuclear-armed Iran, the President's policy has been clear: Iranian acquisition of nuclear weapons is unacceptable. He worked with Congress to impose some of the toughest sanctions ever enacted on the Iranian regime. He built an international coalition to follow suit, creating a united front to halt Iran's nuclear ambitions. Today, our sanctions are biting and stronger than they have ever been.
Now, back to Governor Romney's proposal: if we suspend rational belief for a moment and take him at his word, what would "the opposite" look like? What could we expect from a Romney Administration when it comes to the U.S.-Israel relationship?
The impact of reversing course is plain: an Israel that's less secure and weaker on the world stage, facing an Iran closer to a nuclear weapon, without a White House ally willing to protect Israel's people at a moment's notice. Is this really what's in store from a Romney White House? Is this honestly what Mr. Romney believes?
At the end of the day, there are only two things we can believe about Mitt Romney when it comes to the U.S.-Israel relationship. Either he is engaged cynical partisan demagoguery or he is woefully ignorant of the state of the U.S.-Israel relationship under President Obama's leadership.
Doing "the opposite" is a risk the American people can't afford to take.
Steven Grossman, a former chair of AIPAC, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, is the Treasurer and Receiver-General of Massachusetts.
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