<a href="http://www.mepc.org/articles-commentary/middle-east-focus">Middle East In Focus</a>
Mitt Romney, the GOP candidate for president, visited Israel this past week as part of an international tour designed to shore up his foreign policy credentials. It was also meant to assure the supporters of Israel (both in the Jewish and the evangelical communities in the United States) that the Republican candidate would be a staunch supporter of the state of Israel. While he certainly accomplished the latter objective, his comments during the visit managed to also anger almost every observer outside of Israel.
The Jerusalem Post editorial summed up the attitude of many Israelis, noting “There is no doubt that Mitt Romney is a great friend and supporter of Israel. During his short but significant visit to the country this week, the former Massachusetts governor said all the right things....His trip to Israel, like Obama’s before the last presidential campaign, clearly won him friends here and might boost his chances among American Jews and perhaps Christian voters, too....Actions often speak louder than words. We can only embrace Romney and thank him for this important visit while urging Obama to follow suit.”
While neither the Jerusalem Post nor the Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu could say this in the open, much of the positive reaction to Romney’s visit and comments had as much to do with a perceived slight by President Obama. Shaul Rosenfeld has no such reluctance: “In general, Obama is becoming more Palestinian than the Palestinians by demanding that Israel halt all construction beyond the Green Line as a precondition for renewing peace talks....More than Israel, the U.S. and the West need Romney in the White House, they need Obama out. Because as a second-term president, he may become an immortal hero of the Chinese, Russians, Islamists and the rest of those who ‘support’ Israel and the West.”
Yedioth Ahronoth’s Orly Azoulay suggests a reason why the Israeli PM might not have come out openly in support of the Republican candidate: “Romney carried out a brilliant political ploy: Like a skilled billiards player, he hit one ball to make the others rolls: A photo of his intimate dinner with the PM in Jerusalem that will be published in Florida and in Pennsylvania is worth more than a thousand words — among the Jews, and also among the Evangelicals....The one playing with fire this time around is Netanyahu only: Should Romney become president, Bibi would be able to sit back and say that his bet succeeded. Should Obama win a second term in office, the cold shoulder he gave the Israeli PM thus far will turn into a huge iceberg.”
Outside of Israel, however, there was very little patience for Romney’s statement about the lack of a proper work culture in the Occupied Territories. The Saudi Gazette editorial, for example, writes: “It is clear what the Palestinians can expect from a Mitt Romney White House if the Republican challenger beats Obama this November — they can expect absolutely nothing. Romney’s visit to Israel has made it plain to everyone that if he becomes president, his refusal to admit the existence of the Palestinians as anything other than a persistent annoyance for his valued Israeli allies, will be total....He follows in the fine George W. Bush tradition of never letting the facts, however plain, get in the way of good old ignorant prejudice....Compared with the quick-thinking and supple Obama, Romney will be a rigid and inflexible president when it comes to Middle Eastern foreign policy. But this might actually mean that change will occur, if the pressure on him becomes too great. We should not forget that the stiffest sticks break most easily.”
The comparison to George W. Bush was also a theme in Emad El Din Adeeb’s op-ed on Asharq Alawsat: “Mitt Romney's team is putting forth a set of extremely radical ideas and plans that could only be rivaled by the policies of George W. Bush administration....With Mitt Romney and his team, we are face to face with the hardline American right wing, strongly allied with the powerful finance and military-industrial community in the U.S. Historically speaking, such powers have proven that whenever they rise to power, they transform all theatres of world events into inextinguishable blazing fires....Romney's success will be a disaster, but likewise Obama's stay in power will be another disaster altogether!”
Others were even less forgiving. The Oman Tribune characterized Romney’s remarks regarding the economic gap between Israelis and the Palestinians as “inane,” adding: “two things are evident and one is that Romney will make an ignorant president needing good advisers, and second he will be blatantly pro-Israeli and not a wee bit sympathetic and considerate to the Palestinian cause. It should not surprise anyone if Romney became the most pro-Israeli U.S. president ever....During the course of his visit to Israel, he made a number of asinine remarks. One ascribed the economic gap between the Israelis and Palestinians due to ‘culture.’ ‘Culture makes all the difference,’ said this wise guy having ambitions to be the leader of the free world. Is he an ignoramus?”
The Daily Star editorial did not spare any venom: “For many onlookers around the world, it once would have seemed impossible for a U.S. politician to arise that was more ignorant than former President George W. Bush, but Mitt Romney’s recent international tour seems to have killed these hopes....American politicians, whether Republican or Democrat, have always focused on the Jewish vote, and this is one thing. But there is a fine line between a politician and a demagogue, and Romney’s Israel trip, in which he raised $1 million, constitutes him selling his soul.”
Finally, the Khaleej Times believes Romney’s visit and comments in Israel constitute nothing short of a blunder: “Hardly out of the woods for not being a politician in his credentials to lead the world’s superpower, the Republican presidential candidate seems to have walked the suicide path of his career....Romney, with hardly 100 days to go to polls, has to do some serious homework. All his words and deeds to this day have been reactionary. Whether it be economy, social care, immigration or external relations, he has tried to put in a couple of adjectives and adverbs in the script in utter contrast to what his opponent Obama has to say....Aligning Washington as a client state of Israel is a great disservice to the nation. Romney is in need of some wise advisers, and certainly not by those who debrief him on the so-called utility of gun-diplomacy.”
Middle East In Focus is a synopsis of commentary and news from Middle Eastern and other international media. Its purpose is to provide a succinct and balanced summary of the main developments and views that are often overlooked or not properly reflected in the U.S. media. For the most recent collection of articles on and from the Middle East, please go to: http://mepc.org/articles-commentary/articles-hub. Comments and feedback are welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org.