Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
on Sunday hosted US Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney
in his chambers.
Meanwhile, one of Romney's senior aides said that he would back Israel
if it were to decide it had to use military force to stop Iran
from developing a nuclear weapon.
"If Israel has to take action on its own, in order to stop Iran from developing that capability, the governor would respect that decision," Romney's senior national security aide Dan Senor told reporters travelling with the candidate.
Romney arrived late on Saturday on the second-leg of a foreign trip aimed at bolstering his foreign policy credentials in his race to unseat Obama in the Nov. 6 presidential election.
Netanyahu and Romney in Jerusalem (Photo: Avi Ohayon, GPO)
Prior to their meeting, Netanyahu took a jab at US President Barack Obama
and told Romney that sanctions and diplomacy have yet to stall Iran's development of nuclear capabilities. This calls for a strong, credible military threat, Netanyahu added. He stressed that Israel is the only stable ally the US has in a turbulent Middle East and noted that Romney's visit was an expression of the strong ties Israel shares with the US.
Romney, on his part, said that Tisha B'Av
was an appropriate time to meet Netanyahu and stated he recognized the suffering and sacrifices of the Jewish people.
Addressing the Iranian issue, Romney said he adopted Netanyahu's positions in the Middle East. He stressed the US and Israel must ensure that the world understands the extent of the strength of their ties in the face of the Iranian nuclear threat.
Peres and Romney (Photo" Moshe Milner, GPO)
Unlike Netanyahu, President Shimon Peres
praised President Obama's policy vis-à-vis Iran during his meeting with Romney. Peres said that Israel accepts the world's position and is confident that the US is taking into account Israel's security. He expressed his support for the US policy of trying to stop Iran's nuclear program in the "least dangerous" way while making it clear that all options are on the table.
Discussing the threat Iran poses to the world, Peres that the world must be aware of Tehran's use of agents such as Hezbollah and Hamas to spread and finance global terror.
Prior to meeting Peres, Romney said that a nuclear Iran was unacceptable because of the threat it poses to Israel, the region and the entire world.
Mixed messages (Photo: Reuters)
As part of his visit, Romney also met with Opposition Chairman Shaul Mofaz and
and Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad.
A meeting with Labor Party Chairwoman Shelly Yachimovich has been canceled. MK Isaac Herzog, who heads the Labor faction, said that the meeting was scheduled at the request of Romney and his aides, and postulated that the Republican challenger to President Obama was mislead by politicians who fear Yachimovich would rise to power.
The US republican candidate will also hold a tour of the Western Wall and will attend a dinner at the prime minister's residence on Sunday evening. On Monday, he will attend a fund raiser for his presidential campaign
Earlier, Romney's aide told reporters that Romney believed the threat from Iran was approaching on a path involving two timelines.
The first was Iran's drive - denied by Tehran - to develop a nuclear weapons capability, and the second was having the ability to penetrate Iran's defenses before they were hardened in such a way to protect against a strike, Senor said.
In excepts of a speech Romney was to deliver on Monday evening, the former Massachusetts governor planned to say that an aggressive approach to Tehran was needed to protect against a threat to the very existence of Israel, the closest US ally in the turbulent Middle East.
"When Iran's leaders deny the Holocaust or speak of wiping this nation off the map, only the naïve - or worse - will dismiss it as an excess of rhetoric," he would say.
"Make no mistake: the ayatollahs in Tehran are testing our moral defenses. They want to know who will object, and who will look the other way."
Attila Somfalvi, Moran Azulay and Omri Efraim contributed to this report