During the last debate, Romney repeated one of his standard criticisms of Obama on Israel and Palestine:
This president went before the United Nations and castigated Israel for building settlements. He said nothing about thousands of rockets being rained in on Israel from the Gaza Strip.
This is one of Romney’s favorites. He has been using a variant of this line for years. The problem for Romney is that it was never really true, and Obama has mentioned rocket attacks from Gaza in every address to the U.N. that he has given. If we go back to Obama’s first address to the U.N., which is what Romney has been referring to for more than two years, we will find a reference to rocket attacks on Israel:
We must remember that the greatest price of this conflict is not paid by us. It’s not paid by politicians. It’s paid by the Israeli girl in Sderot who closes her eyes in fear that a rocket will take her life in the middle of the night.
If we want to be very technical and generous to Romney, we could say that it’s true that Obama did not mention the number of rocket attacks, but that’s not the point. Romney wants people to think that Obama simply ignores these attacks all together, and that is not true.
The 2010 U.N. address contained the most explicit references:
And efforts to threaten or kill Israelis will do nothing to help the Palestinian people. The slaughter of innocent Israelis is not resistance — it’s injustice. And make no mistake: The courage of a man like President Abbas, who stands up for his people in front of the world under very difficult circumstances, is far greater than those who fire rockets at innocent women and children.
A little later in the speech, there is another specific reference to Sderot:
Or, we can say that this time will be different — that this time we will not let terror, or turbulence, or posturing, or petty politics stand in the way. This time, we will think not of ourselves, but of the young girl in Gaza who wants to have no ceiling on her dreams, or the young boy in Sderot who wants to sleep without the nightmare of rocket fire.
Romney’s claim has been a basically false one since he first started making it, like many of his other criticisms of administration foreign policy, and more than that it is a foolish mistake. It is extremely easy to check and disprove this claim, and Romney doesn’t need to use this claim to make the standard Republican attack on Obama’s handling of Israel and Palestine issues. It’s an unforced error that Romney has been making for the better part of the last two years.
Update: Chait’s assessment is worth reading:
Even by the standards of politicians, Romney seems unusually prone to dishonesty. Again, you can ascribe this to circumstance rather than character. I see him as a patrician pol, like George H.W. Bush, who believes deeply in public service but regards elections as a cynical process of pandering to rubes. I think you can plausibly make other interpretations, and you can separate Romney the man or even Romney the president from Romney the candidate. But I don’t see how you can paint Romney the candidate as in any way scrupulous about the truth in any form.