Home/Daniel Larison/Romney Promises “the Opposite” of Obama’s Israel Policy

Romney Promises “the Opposite” of Obama’s Israel Policy

Mitt Romney has apparently pledged to stop selling Israel weapons and must have ruled out military against Iran:

Mitt Romney told evangelical Christians that he’ll do “the opposite” of what President Obama has done in dealing with Israel.

It’s at these moments that Romney’s reflexive opposition to anything associated with Obama ceases to make sense. Yes, an incumbent’s partisan opponent will make opportunistic attacks, and it is unavoidable that those attacks will be based on deliberate misrepresentations and distortions of the incumbent’s record. That is the way of things, and it’s generally considered “smart” politics. However, it doesn’t do Romney any favors to go on record to claim that he will be the exact opposite of Obama on Israel. Obama has been fairly conventional in reliably backing Israel on every important issue that doesn’t conflict with longstanding U.S. policy, and even when the Israeli government is at odds with U.S. policy Obama has tended to back down. Romney claims that he would do the opposite of this.

This is not an exaggeration of Romney’s remarks. According to the report, he said, “Well, I think by in large [sic] you could just look at the things the president’s done and do the opposite.” So under a Romney administration the U.S. would have taken Ankara’s side in the dispute over the flotilla raid? President Romney would have refused to pursue additional sanctions on Iran at the U.N.? Instead of giving up on negotiations with Iran early on, he would have pressed ahead with a policy of engagement? Rather than abandoning the pressure to freeze settlements, Romney would have threatened to cut off aid unless Netanyahu yielded? That’s what “the opposite” of Obama’s Israel policy would actually be. Romney is taking for granted that his intended audience doesn’t know that and doesn’t care, and he’s probably right.

Romney reiterated his fanatical position on unthinking solidarity with U.S. clients:

I would not want to show a dime’s worth of distance between ourselves and our allies like Israel. If we have disagreements, we can talk about them, you know, behind closed doors. But to the world, you show that we’re locked arm in arm.

Yes, because U.S. interests are clearly advanced around the world by reinforcing the perception that there is no meaningful difference between the United States and Israel on any issue. In other words, U.S. interests will take second place to the need to promote a phony common front to the world. Romney certainly knows something about putting forward a phony front. It’s useful to know that Romney’s priorities are still as confused as ever.

Romney’s bad ideas are not limited only to relations between U.S. and Israel. He has more than enough bad ideas for the entire region to spare. On Syria, he said:

Instead of watching what’s happening in Syria from a dispassionate distance, I would be leading in Syria by encouraging our friends there like the Turks and the Saudis to prove weapons [sic] to the insurgents in Syria.

The report doesn’t explain why Romney thinks that encouraging the Saudis to arm a rebel movement is a sign of good leadership. If it tells us anything, it is that Romney is not one to be trusted with making such decisions. It doesn’t seem to occur to Romney that the Saudis don’t need U.S. encouragement to do this, nor does he seem to realize that what the Saudi government desires may not be all together good for American interests.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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