JERUSALEM, Israel – White House hopeful Mitt Romney was to meet Israeli leaders on Sunday, July 29, as he seeks to burnish his foreign policy credentials and portray himself as a better friend to Israel than President Barack Obama.
Romney, who arrived in Jerusalem on Saturday night, was scheduled to hold talks with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday morning, followed by meetings with President Shimon Peres, Israeli opposition leaders and Palestinian prime minister Salam Fayyad later in the day.
He was also due to make a foreign policy statement.
Romney has consistently attacked what he says is Obama’s weak and misguided Middle East policy, saying in January that the Democratic incumbent “threw Israel under the bus,” by defining the 1967 borders as a starting point for Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.
He has also charged that Obama’s policy towards Iran is too weighted towards engagement with an Israeli enemy with suspected nuclear ambitions, and has vowed tougher sanctions if he is elected.
Obama made a show of support for Israel at the White House on Friday, signing a law reinforcing US security and military cooperation with Israel as representatives of the pro-Israel lobby AIPAC stood next to him in the Oval Office.
Israeli journalists were invited to attend the signing along with photographers and reporters accredited to the White House. Such signing ceremonies have been uncommon in the Obama presidency.
The law, which gives Israel preferential access to US arms and munitions, “underscores our unshakable commitment to Israel’s security,” Obama said.
On Sunday, Israeli daily Haaretz reported that US National Security Adviser Tom Donilon had briefed Netanyahu on Washington’s contingency plans for a pre-emptive strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities.
Citing a senior US official, the paper said Donilon met Netanyahu for three hours over dinner in Jerusalem two weeks ago and shared with him details of US military capabilities for attacking Iranian bunkers.
“Donilon sought to make clear that the United States is seriously preparing for the possibility that negotiations will reach a dead end and military action will become necessary,” Haaretz wrote.
Israeli officials did not formally confirm or deny the report.
“We don’t comment on what is discussed in closed diplomatic meetings,” one official told AFP on condition of anonymity.
“But the story is full of factual errors.” – Agence France-Presse