On the eve of his visit to Israel, Mitt Romney, the presumptive Republican candidate for U.S. President spoke to Haaretz about Iran, Syria and Benjamin Netanyahu, but declined to comment on his opponent, U.S. President Barack Obama, adhering to the American political tradition of refraining from criticism of the president while "on foreign soil." In the same vein, he begged off commenting on Israel's settlement policy, saying it would demonstrate his "distance" from the president's policy.
On a possible strike on Iran: Romney said that an American military strike on Iran's nuclear facilities "should not be ruled out" if other preventive measures fail. He added: "I am personally committed to take every step necessary to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapons capability."
On whether he would urge Israel to leave an Iran strike to the U.S. military: "Prime Minister Netanyahu always has to do what he feels is in the best interests of his own nation. I know that our nation will always feel the same about ours."
On the dangers of a nuclear Iran: “I have said in the past and I can reiterate now that it is essential that Iran does not become nuclear. A nuclear Iran represents the greatest threat to the world, to the United States and to the very existence of Israel. A nuclear Iran would mean that Hezbollah or other actors would potentially someday be able to secure fissile materials which would threaten the world."
On whether he would support regime change in Iran: “America is wise to stand by people seeking freedom particularly in nations that regularly chant ‘Death to America’ and ‘Death to Israel.'”
On Syria: "I think it is important for the responsible nations of the world to seek to understand which forces in Syria represent real change, rather than the kind of destruction that might occur if Al-Qaida were to seize the development of chaos and assert leadership in some significant way in Syria."
On Russia and China's stance on Syria: “I was very disappointed with the vote of condemnation at the United Nations being vetoed by Russia and China. I was appalled at the decision by Russia as reported in the media to provide attack helicopters and other armaments to the ‘Butcher in Damascus.’ The world looks with horror at the devastation being caused by Assad.”
On the Israeli-Palestinian conflict: “I believe in a two-state solution which suggests there will be two states, including a Jewish state. I respect Israel’s right to remain a Jewish state. The question is not whether the people of the region believe that there should be a Palestinian state. The question is if they believe there should be an Israeli state, a Jewish state.”
On U.S.-Israel relations: "In a time of turmoil and peril in Israel’s neighborhood, it is important that the security of America’s commitments to Israel will be as clear as humanly possible. When Israel feels less secure in the neighborhood, it should feel more secure of the commitment of the United States to its defense.”
On what Israel policy would be if he were president: "If I will be president, there will be no confrontations between our nations before international institutions. There will be no public denouncing of Israel by the U.S. in the UN. Israel's friendly and unfriendly neighbors will know we stand with you. I believe that is the real way to achieve peace-by working with Israel, not creating distance between Israel and America."
On Benjamin Netanyahu: "I have no idea what political impact it has, but nevertheless, this is a personally rewarding relationship which he and I will share, win or lose."
On his reasons for visiting Israel: "The purpose of my trip is to listen and to learn. I do want to hear from individuals who are in places of strategic significance, who share our values and who have perspectives of significance relating to the tumultuous events throughout the world." He also added: "Yes, for me Jerusalem and Israel are places of divine significance."
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