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'Iran not only Israel's problem.' Romney Photo: AP
'Iran not only Israel's problem.' Romney Photo: AP
 
 

 

Romney blasts Obama on Israel, Iran

In excerpts from speech to be delivered to Republican Jewish Coalition, presidential hopeful says Ahmadinejad should be indicted for 'incitement to genocide'

AFP
Published: 12.07.11, 08:58 / Israel News

Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney blasted President Barack Obama's approach to Israel, charging he has "immeasurably" damaged Middle East peace prospects and failed to confront Iran.

 

The former Massachusetts governor, in excerpts of a speech to be delivered on Wednesday to the Republican Jewish Coalition, also declared Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad "should be indicted for the crime of incitement to genocide."

 

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"I want every country in the region that harbors aggressive designs against Israel to understand their quest is futile and that continuing it will cost them dearly," he said in the remarks, which his campaign made public.

 

Romney accused Obama of having called on Israel to "adopt indefensible borders," having "insulted" Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and having been "timid and weak in the face of the existential threat of a nuclear Iran."

 

"These actions have emboldened Palestinian hard-liners who now are poised to form a unity government with terrorist Hamas and feel they can bypass Israel at the bargaining table," he said in a reference to the Palestinians' push for UN membership, which Obama has vowed to block.

 

Obama "has immeasurably set back the prospect of peace in the Middle East," Romney charged in excerpts of his speech to the group, which was holding a forum for Republican presidential candidates in Washington on Wednesday.

 

Romney, who recently lost the frontrunner's mantle to former House speaker Newt Gingrich, said Israel would be his first foreign trip as president and vowed to reaffirm that the staunch US ally must exist as "a Jewish state."

 

Obama said in May that Middle East peace will ultimately require Israel to exist alongside a Palestinian state, based on shared territorial lines from before the 1967 Arab-Israeli war but modified with "mutually agreed" land swaps.

 

Republicans -- as well as Netanyahu -- have zeroed in on the 1967 borders while ignoring the notion of the territorial exchanges, which are expected to be a way for Israel to shore up its security and keep settlements in the West Bank.

 

And US and international economic sanctions on Iran have tightened sharply on Obama's watch as part of a concerted effort to force Tehran to halt what the West charges is a nuclear weapons program.

 

Still, some Democrats have joined Republicans in openly worrying that the Obama administration has not shown sufficient "urgency" about tackling the issue, in part because it has resisted new sanctions on Tehran's central bank.

 

"A nuclear-armed Iran is not only an Israel problem, it is problem for the United States and all the decent countries of the world," said Romney.

 

Romney said Ahmadinejad should not "be invited into polite society" but pursued for past comments against Israel under Article 3 of the UN-approved Genocide Convention of 1948, to which Iran is a party, that makes "direct and public incitement to commit genocide" a crime.

 

With an eye on the November 2012 elections, Republicans energized by Obama's low popularity have slammed his Middle East policy, hoping to pump up Christian conservatives and erode Democrats' usually strong support from Jewish voters.

 

They have argued that Obama has placed undue pressure on Israel while seeking little from the Palestinians as he has sought to revive stalled Middle East peace talks.

 

Jewish voters, a key Democratic voting bloc that went 78% for Obama in 2008, give Obama just a 54% job approval rating, according to a public opinion poll by the Gallup organization.

 

But that still leaves him about 10 points more popular among Jewish voters than among the overall population, among whom his job approval ratings have slipped to the mid-40s.

 

Exit polls in 2008 suggested only around two percent of voters nationwide are Jewish -- but they could wield decisive power in vital swing states like Florida and Pennsylvania and provide fertile ground for political fundraising.

 

 

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