Americans who care about putting the economy back on track and restoring American greatness have ample reasons to vote for Mitt Romney. And Americans who care about Israel have particularly important reasons to support Governor Romney. The last four years have been damaging for America’s influence in the Middle East and undermining the security of our most important ally there, Israel.
The challenges we face in the region are grave. The Arab Spring, amid Obama policies characterized by passivity and wishful thinking, shows signs of dashing the hopes of Arab democrats who sought freedom and pluralistic democracy while emboldening Islamist extremists who are using democratic means to achieve undemocratic ends.
By contrast, the President directly involved himself in two issues that are of great importance to Americans who care about Israel: the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and Iran’s pursuit of a nuclear weapons capability.
As much as anyone, American Jews desire a peaceful solution to the decades-long conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. Unfortunately, President Obama’s naïve and misguided policies have left Israel and the Palestinians further from peace.
Early in 2009, the Obama Administration needlessly broke ranks with Israel by discarding a previous agreement and calling for a moratorium on all settlement construction as a precondition for talks with the Palestinians – a condition that not even Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas had demanded. The unilateral demand to halt even natural settlement growth and construction in Jerusalem surprised Israelis and Palestinians alike, and perversely weakened both the Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority, playing into Hamas’ irredentist demands and setting unrealistic expectations Abbas could never hope to meet.
The President doubled down on this error by calling for a solution based on Israel’s 1967 borders, playing into the extremists’ hands by setting a new floor for negotiations and further limiting Abbas’ room to maneuver. No wonder the beleaguered Palestinian leader refuses to negotiate with Israel and instead is pursuing unilateral recognition of Palestinian statehood by the United Nations; President Obama has set the bar too high for a weakened Abbas to meet.
The Obama Administration’s strategy of undercutting Israel’s negotiating position, and then setting unrealistic expectations for the Palestinians has tragically exacerbated the conflict.
The President’s policy towards Iran is also not working. The President came into office committing to direct negotiations with Iran’s leaders, apologizing for America’s perceived past misdeeds, and pledging “mutual respect” with the Mullahs in Tehran. Iran’s leaders were unimpressed, and responded by ignoring multiple UN Security Council resolutions, moving ahead with their clandestine nuclear weapons program, funding and supporting attacks on American military personnel and fomenting instability throughout the region, and plotting terrorist attacks against Israeli and Arab diplomats – including trying to assassinate the Saudi Ambassador in Washington, DC. Pressed repeatedly by Congress and even the French government, President Obama has belatedly moved to impose sanctions on Iran, but these sanctions have not changed Iran’s behavior, the primary standard by which they should be judged. Iran is closer to a nuclear weapons capability today than it was four years ago, and its leaders display no indication of abandoning their deadly pursuit.
Tragically, the President missed a perfect opportunity to undermine the regime in Tehran and put Iran-US relations on a better track. When Iran’s democrats and dissidents took to the streets after a rigged election – The Green Revolution – the President turned his back on those whose priority was to bring freedom, tolerance, and democracy to Iran, and sought to return to negotiations with the Mullahs who seek to export Islamic revolution and acquire nuclear weapons.
No one wants war, but the President’s advisors have undermined American diplomacy by constantly denigrating not only the United States’ military option, but also Israel's. The President may say that “all options are on the table,” but the hard truth is that few in the region believe him. America’s credibility and its diplomacy have been eroded by the passivity President Obama has shown throughout the region during his tenure. Mitt Romney will restore the leadership that the United States must display in the Middle East.
Eric Cantor is the U.S. Representative for Virginia's 7th congressional district. He is also the Republican Party House Majority Leader and previously served as House Minority .