Romney’s Israel Stop: Keeping Up Appearances

  • Share
  • Read Later
Dan Balilty / AP

Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney pauses next to the Western Wall, in Jerusalem, Sunday, July 29, 2012.

Though his remarks Monday morning later threatened to prove otherwise, it appeared that Mitt Romney got in and out of Israel with what he’d hoped for:  No gaffes, no real headlines — nothing so substantial as to risk a clear view of the image he had traveled halfway around the world to produce: footage of a U.S. presidential candidate and Israel’s Prime Minister standing side by side as if they actually liked each other. At one point Sunday, as the cameras rolled, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reached toward his guest and adjusted the microphone. It was an absent-minded gesture that meant nothing more than that: a microphone needed adjusting. Yet it’s difficult to imagine Netanyahu doing the same beside President Obama, so fraught and freighted have their joint appearances become.

The incident underscores once again how much politics really is about appearances. Because on the meat of the matters at hand – Iran, Syria, all the weighty affairs of state chewed over during 50 minutes in Netanyahu’s office – Romney’s visit served to highlight how little his positions differ from Obama’s, at least according to an Israeli official who was in the room.

“It was actually very similar –which is quite interesting – to the meeting we had four and a half years ago with then-candidate Obama,” says Zalman Shoval, a former Israeli ambassador to Washington. “And candidate McCain. It was quite a typical meeting.”

On a glum day, Romney showed up in a Jerusalem at half staff. The Arab sections of the city were subdued by Ramadan, the month-long fast during daylight hours. And the Jewish side observed Tisha B’av, the annual day of mourning for the destruction of the first two Temples of Jerusalem (the second is known as the Western Wall). The candidate visited at mid-afternoon, slipping a prayer into the cracks amid the tumult of a campaign visit.

The timing had its effects. At first the campaign planned its famous on-foreign-soil fundraiser for daylight hours, when devout Jews were observing a fast. The $50,000 a person affair, limited to American citizens, was shifted to Monday morning before departure for Poland. But the solemnity of Sunday, with its light traffic and summer haze, cost the visit some frisson. Monday morning’s Hebrew language newspapers were preoccupied with Netanyahu’s budget, which raises taxes, and the largest paid circulation daily, Yedioth Ahronoth, didn’t even front the presumptive Republican nominee.

(PHOTOS: The Rich History of Mitt Romney)

“Romney? Who’s Romney?” asks Ofer Eliyahu, 25, selling cell phones at a mall in a north Jerusalem neighborhood called Pisgat Ze’ev. “He’s Jewish, no?”  Jewish? No. He’s Mormon. “What’s Mormon?” A kind of Christian. Eliyahu shrugs, then condenses Israeli public opinion as detected by polls: “I think he may be better for Israel. Obama doesn’t do anything for Israel. Only lately.”

After a London stop that produced only gaffes, the Jerusalem visit began with the threat of news. Dan Senor, a Romney foreign policy adviser, told reporters the candidate’s evening speech would express “respect” for an Israeli decision to strike Iran. The speech itself turned out to be less bold, deferring, as Obama has, to Israel’s sovereign rights, albeit in language more in line with the Israeli view.

That re-alignment of perspective was the theme undergirding the trip – a marked shift from at least the pretense of balanced policy that became Republican orthodoxy in the presidential primaries, where candidates battled to see who could embrace Israel more firmly to the bosom. The plainspoken Herman Cain made the identification complete during his own visit to Jerusalem last year, at the same luxury hotel, the King David, where Romney received visitors. “If it assumes Israel is going to give up anything that Israel does not want to give up,” he said, “I’m against that.”

At the time, Romney’s history with Netanyahu – the men both worked at Boston Consulting years ago – gave him a leg up in the competition: “I would get on the phone to my friend Bibi Netanyahu,” he said in one primary debate, “and say, ‘Would it help if I said this? What would you like me to do?” In Jerusalem, Bibi apparently wanted his friend to cancel a scheduled meeting with leaders of the Labor Party, which has been surging in the polls in recent weeks.  Without explanation, the Romney campaign abruptly dropped the session from the schedule, a deference interpreted in the Hebrew press as clumsy, if not excessive.

(PHOTOS: Political Pictures of the Week, July 21-27)

The candidates’ stated preoccupation with Iran’s “nuclear folly” was welcomed, however, as was his veiled criticism of Obama’s occasional criticism of Israel for expanding the West Bank settlements that every U.S. president has termed an impediment to establishing a Palestinian state on land Israel has occupied since 1967. “Standing by Israel does not mean with military and intelligence cooperation alone,” Romney said. “We cannot stand silent as those who seek to undermine Israel voice their criticisms. And we certainly should not join in that criticism. Diplomatic distance between our nations emboldens Israel’s adversaries.”

The biggest ovation, however, came when Romney pointedly declared Jerusalem “the capital of Israel,” a geographical given that, in diplomacy, risks repudiation of Palestinian aspirations to make the city the capital of their own state, should it occur. The setting mattered, too: Romney made his remarks on a hillside overlooking the walls of the Old City, at a time of day when the setting sun casts the Ottoman-era stone aglow in what Jewish Israelis call the “Jerusalem of Gold.”

Had the camera platforms been set up a few feet to left, the wall visible behind Romney would have been a different one: the concrete barrier that divides portions of the Palestinian city from the rest. Although Romney met briefly with Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, the conflict that for more than half a century has defined the region was, at best, an afterthought in the working session with Netanyahu.

“The Palestinian issue,” former ambassador Zalman Shoval reports, “did not come up at the meeting.”

37 comments
Sort: Newest | Oldest
Richard Giles
Richard Giles

Under Reagan and under Clinton we had prosperity, including "jobs" and "taxes" that allowed people and government to work; only under Bush-Cheney did government become completely fixated on patronizing the very wealthy and neglecting responsibility to the majority.  Today the Republican / Tea Party, with the now spoiled 1% pressuring them as their strong supporters and dictators, think only in those terms, to cater to "the money" and take the 99% for granted.  The 1% is pouring their mega-millions into this election cycle with the full intent of controlling it for their purposes, to assure the continuing concentration on their interests, to return to "more of the same" Bush-Cheney style, to allow "the money" to continue to feed their insatiable "more" (never enough) appetite and just let the majority continue to loose.

The people, the majority have to recognize their own decline is directly correlated with the "puppet" politicians increased dependency on and concentration to serve "the money" and to see that those selling "liberalism" as the problem are promoting a lie that serves their purposes.  Getting government spending and the deficit under control are needed goals but they don't address the source of the problems, which is the flagrant abuse by "the few" freely taking advantage.  Run-away greed, gross dishonesty and self-indulgence, allowed by permissive and co-responsible politicians, caused repeated crises in savings-and-loans, banks, dot.coms, the investment, financial and mortgage industries, as well as corporate corruption (like Enron) and industrywide failures, all of which brought this country's economy to its knees and killed jobs in the process - with "the few" always walking away "fat and sassy" and leaving the costs to the majority.  To allow a return to the irresponsibility of that Bush-Cheney style thinking, can only repeat the problems, whether sold as "conservative" or otherwise.

The voters need to see their losses are consistent with the neglect of responsibilities by the "puppet" politicians as they just concentrate on serving "the money" who own and control them and "pull their strings".  Together, with their power, influence and money, they insultingly just take the voters for granted, feeling they can con the people and manipulate public opinion at their will - seen now in the aggressive propaganda campaign paid for by the 1%'s mega-millions.  They have become emboldened by past successes in the manipulation of the Evangelistic Christian, the Swift-boat propaganda, the Tea Party movement and with their millions poured into the recent Wisconsin recall election; all being well designed, well directed and well funded efforts to sway voters in the same single direction.  For the people to have a chance they have to recognize the deception, reject the propaganda trying to control them and firmly reject all of the "puppet" politicians that will continue to serve only the interests of "the money".

kafantaris
kafantaris

With Syria imploding from within and Iran due to go down the same path, Israel should now stay out of both Iran and Syria.  Left alone these two will better serve its interests than anything it can do with air strikes.  Indeed, Israel often does more harm than good with force.  And being our adopted child, it invariably drags us in.  This is reason enough in itself for us to worry about what Israel is up to.  So no encouragements, please Mitt. Did you forget that our foreign policy debate ends at the water's edge? So does our political fundraising. Bad form. 

Nwvotes
Nwvotes

Mitt Romney didn't make the best impression in London. Do you think he is a good representative for the U.S.? Vote at Nationwidevotes.com 

Commentary Fortytwo
Commentary Fortytwo

This is not exactly a victory tour for Romney. Just in the last two weeks Romney has ticked off the Australian Prime Minister by "spinning" his words to mean the opposite of what he was really saying. He has become the butt of jokes in the UK with his pompous criticism of the Olympics. He has managed to disparage non Anglo-Saxons and Palestinians. He gave a verbal green light to Israel to attack Iran, increasing tensions in the region between Israel and Palestinians and Israel and Iran. He has called out our duly elected natural born President as being "foreign." He collected an endorsement from outspoken communist Walesa (palling around with Communists) and been thoroughly trashed by the Unions in Poland. He has also removed all doubt as to what Adleson wants in return for his $100 million in campaign funds – war with Iran. So how many trillions and lives is THAT going to cost us if Romney is elected. This ham handed fumbler needs to come home before he does any more damage.

Gmorbgmibgnikgnok
Gmorbgmibgnikgnok

When you show up with neocon talking points in Israel, how could you possibly screw that up?

Brandt Hardin
Brandt Hardin

 

It was a less than stellar week abroad for “Mitt the Twitt.”  Romney should be more knowledgeable of

foreign policy since he knows every corner of the world he can hide his

money!  He’s already has international financial

ties which run all the way from Switzerland to the Cayman Islands.  Never mind that he’s never been involved with

politics outside of the US- only his millions of dollars have.  Read about the role of Mitt’s money and his

Magic Mormon Underwear are playing in the polls at http://dregstudiosart.blogspot...

where you can see for yourself the true power of both on display in full color!

S_Deemer
S_Deemer

Having insulted the Brits, and escaped Israel without asking for a cheeseburger, Romney heads to Poland. I hope he doesn't refer to his hosts as "polacks."

Interesting how quiet the resident wingnut trolls here, who disparate Obama's foreign policy, have had nothing to say about Romney's disastrous demonstration of his ineptitude.

Richard Giles
Richard Giles

Mitt Romney is totally full of himself and as such, he lacks the humility to see and understand the needs of the people.  He simply is one of the 1%ers, is committed to their interests and just expects people to accept whatever he says and to do as instructed - their simply being “pawns” to serve “the money’s’” needs.  That is what he is accustom to, without ever having any care or understanding for what anything else is like.  We even see him today play-acting to the different interests of multiple countries for their American loyalist’s support.  To expect comprehensive and responsible policy to really benefit the people from him, is like expecting “blood from a turnip”, it just isn’t there.

TessaBD
TessaBD

"Mitt Romney got in and out of Israel with what he’d hoped for:..."

You forgot the $1m campaign contributions. 

Nice try.

apr2563
apr2563

http://crooksandliars.com/blue...

Mitt just has to lie:

Israel’s current prime minister is not just a friend, he’s an old friend,” Mitt Romney, with whom Netanyahu worked at the Boston Consulting Group in the 1970s, told aipac in March.

Mitt and Bibi: BFFs!

Except no one told Bibi.

“I remember him for sure, but I don’t think we had any particular connections,” he tells me. “I knew him and he knew me, I suppose.”

Rafael Kafka
Rafael Kafka

If Jerusalem as the capital of Israel is not a headline you time libs are delusional lol!

gysgt213
gysgt213

So insulting and  pissing off the Palestinians is no biggie.

groovecity
groovecity

That's right. When it comes to the Palestinians, a spade is a spade.

jsfox
jsfox

Huh no headlines and no gaffes. Where you watching a different trip to Israel?

The Israel is culturally better BS was a diplomacy gaffe of the first order. Then there is the whole  praising of socialized medicine as away to control the cost of healthcare spending. Of course the first is utter bs and the second the DNC better use to pound him.

jmac
jmac

I got another fund raising letter from Romney today with the condescending "You are one of our Party's most loyal supporters . . ."   SINCE WHEN?  1980?      It has a glossy of him and wife and flag surrounded by blond children.

I'm sending it back in the pre-stamped envelope with a note -   WHAT A BLEEPING JERK YOU ARE TO PRAISE ISRAEL'S HEALTH CARE PLAN.     What a jerk.  Is he brain -dead?  Does he have the beginnings of alzheimers?    Is he that clueless?  It's as bad as when he told kids to simply get a loan from parents to pay for school.  The man's an idiot.  

forgottenlord
forgottenlord

The Israel is culturally better and the Jerusalem thing aren't going to play as gaffes.  Oh, they're very bad from a foreign policy perspective, but the people who recognize that this is repugnant aren't the people who were ever going to change their vote based upon this trip.

The health care one could be a gaffe if the DNC had the balls to actually advertise ACA.

John Bentley
John Bentley

Stating that Israel is culturally superior to the Palestinians is a gaffe and is a clear sign that this guy is not ready for primetime on the international stage. This man is ignorant and he is a shameless panderer who has no courage to do anything other than suck up to Bibi Netanyahu in an effort to win Jewish votes.

bobell
bobell

Israel made a desert bloom.  Arabs made the desert.

Next.

rickterp
rickterp

Another Romney gaffe: praising how Israel provides universal health insurance at much lower costs than the US. How? Tight government regulation (including only non-profit insurance providers) and an individual mandate -- basically Romneycare on steroids.  

http://www.washingtonpost.com/...

filmnoia
filmnoia

Bigger than the gaffes on the Palestinian statement and healthcare , is the quote in the article -

"No gaffes, no real headlines ". How do we expect TIME to be taken seriously?

Karl Vick is like the second coming of Joe Klein. Some really weak and lazy journalism.

Jacqueline El-Nil
Jacqueline El-Nil

Wanting to out jew the JEWS.

bobell
bobell

I have a feeling that if I understood what you're trying to say I'd resent it.

valmach
valmach

“If I were an Arab leader, I would never sign an agreement with Israel. It is normal; we have taken their country. It is true God promised it to us, but how could that interest them? Our God is not theirs. There has been Anti - Semitism, the Nazis, Hitler, Auschwitz, but was that their fault ? They see but one thing: we have come and we have stolen their country. Why would they accept that?”

Ben Gurion, Racist, Terrorist, Zionist, Israeli Prime Minister.. 

Steve0T
Steve0T

No gaffe?? Oh please

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/...

filmnoia
filmnoia

Who is Karl Vick and where does he come up with this conventional wisdom tripe?

Willard insults the Palestinians and then praises the Israeli healthcare system, where everyone is mandated to get insurance (just like the ACA).

Those quotes enough will come back to haunt him in ads the Obama team runs.

Before he heads off to eastern Europe to insult the Poles, Willard is having his lips surgically removed from Netanyahu's posterior.

Ageless_match_Com
Ageless_match_Com

Older men are well trained at being a

gentleman, more civilized and capable of supporting whoever they are with, and

understand better how to treat a woman and how to give her what she wants. That’s

why many young women are seeking older men. If you are 40 plus single male, I

would encourage you to join - - - - -  АgelеssМαtch_C_o_m

 - - - - - - and date a younger woman, to

feel young again and make your life more adventurous.

 

We have become Spain in the seventeenth century and made Israel our

papacy. How did this happen and where is the neutral non-biased media

that should get the ship of state floating upright again instead of

heaving so far in Israel's direction the whole ship is in danger of

capsizing internationally. For history majors, Poland was destroyed by

its' rule that every one in parliament, the nobles, had a veto on any

law, ie any foriegn power with the cash could...

SuperShrug
SuperShrug

Calling Jerusalem Israel's IS a gaffe.

Rafael Kafka
Rafael Kafka

Only for anti-Semites like you. For true Americans is a sign of loyalty to Israel!

Tero1
Tero1

So questioning Israel's occupation of Jerusalem makes one an anti-semite? I hope, for your sake, that that is snark.

Tero1
Tero1

Aaahh groovecity. The intellectual equivalent of a fart. Good to hear from you.

groovecity
groovecity

Yep. Anti-semitism at it's best!

karl
karl

Yes, and mindless, ignorant US subserviance to Israel is put up in neon for the world to see. We have become Spain in the seventeenth century and made Israel our papacy. How did this happen and where is the neutral non-biased media that should get the ship of state floating upright again instead of heaving so far in Israel's direction the whole ship is in danger of capsizing internationally. For history majors, Poland was destroyed by its' rule that every one in parliament, the nobles, had a veto on any law, ie any foriegn power with the cash could effect anything Poland did, and thus three partitions of Poland. Will the US' achilles heel be our immigrants who never break off from their foriegn countries from the Cuban exiles to the Jewish media tycoons (certainly not average American Jews who have had it with Netanyahu). Will immigrant lobbies turn out to be the weakness that brings down this state just as the "liberty" of Polish nobles brought a once european great power into the history books for a century. Are we even intelligent enough to know what we are doing anymore or has spin and loud sound bites destroyed our ability to protect ourselves from countries lacking our one man one vote but not ruled by people beholden to small foriegn states?

Antonio_Silvino
Antonio_Silvino

The western wall is not part of what was the second temple.

Dan Bruce
Dan Bruce

Romney isn't kosher.

bobell
bobell

Very true.  Human flesh is most definitely treif. Like pig meat.