U.N. Secretary-General Appoints CAP’s Podesta To High-Level Anti-Poverty Panel |
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today appointed Center for American Progress chair and counselor John Podesta to a High-level Panel to advise on the global development agenda beyond 2015, the target date achieving the anti-poverty targets known as the Millennium Development Goals. “I have asked my High-level Panel to prepare a bold yet practical development vision to present to Member States next year,” Mr. Ban said in a news release. “I look forward to the Panel’s recommendations on a global post-2015 agenda with shared responsibilities for all countries and with the fight against poverty and sustainable development at its core,” Mr. Ban said.
In a report released today as part of the Center for American Progress Action Fund’s “Romney U,” CAP’s Lawrence Korb looked at the presumptive GOP presidential nominee’s defense and military spending numbers and found that they “don’t add up.” Romney’s plan would mean at least $2 trillion in increased spending over the next decade and as of yet, his campaign can’t explain how he plans to pay for it. Korb’s report charts the numbers:
Romney “promotes this approach while simultaneously promising to cut taxes and balance the budget, which is pure intellectual dishonesty,” Korb writes. “By exploding the deficit or gutting domestic programs, Gov. Romney’s plan would compromise our national security.”
Interestingly, Romney’s father George received a far different reception when he ran for president forty-five years earlier and traveled to Israel in December of 1967. Like his son Mitt, George embarked on an international trip to bolster his foreign policy credentials, visiting France, Great Britain, West Germany, Poland, The Soviet Union, Israel, Jordan, Thailand, South Vietnam, Indonesia, and Singapore.
George Romney spent two days visiting Jerusalem and held talks with Israeli Prime Minister Levi Eshkol and other government officials, describing his conversations to reporters as “significant.” Then, he crossed over to Jordan and visited a refugee camp, demonstrating that he was far more willing to consider the challenges facing the Palestinian people on his trip abroad. “I have come here to listen, to look and to learn,” he was quoted as saying in the New York Times on December 22, 1967:
As Hannah Gross at the Daily Beast said of Mitt Romney, “If Romney hopes to be viewed as a fair broker of peace between Israelis and Palestinians—a role he must play if he wants to establish a two-state solution—virtually ignoring Palestinians isn’t a strong first step.”
In the wake of yet another controversial stop on his campaign trip abroad, a host of international media criticized Mitt Romney’s positions on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as damaging to prospects for reviving the stalled peace process.
Here’s a round-up of what some of the international media is saying about Romney’s trip to Jerusalem:
GERMANY: In an opinion piece for the centrist Süddeutsche Zeitung, Germany’s biggest daily, Christian Wernicke wrote:
The trip to Israel may help Romney in the short term. In the long term, however, the Republican has done damage: The Middle East needs the United States as mediator. As such, the would-be president has already disqualified himself.
FRANCE: The French newspaper Le Monde noted that Romney broke with a policy upheld by successive U.S. governments for more than 60 years by recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel:
(H)e delivered a speech declaring himself “very moved” to find himself Jerusalem, “the capital of Israel.”
This while the U.S. does not officially recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Their embassy, like those of virtually all the countries represented in Israel, is in Tel Aviv.
Now the next occasion of putting his foot in his mouth: on Sunday, the Republican called Jerusalem the “capital of Israel.”
UNITED KINGDOM: In a in opinion column for the Rupert Murdoch-owned Times of London, Hugo Rifkind wrote:
Mr. Romney’s behavior in Israel is… a throwback to a time when U.S. foreign policy considered the bulk of the Middle East to be irredeemably horrible; a great morass of messy “other” with which grown-up engagement was close to impossible. As a response to the patchwork of petty tyranny that the region used to be, this made some sense. Today, it makes none at all.
Despite what Mr. Romney says, all American presidents have been pro-Israel, including Mr. Obama. But that doesn’t mean subcontracting American policy to Israeli leaders or donors. [... Romney's] policies would complicate America’s ability to act as a broker in Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts.
How’s Romney handling the coverage given to him by the world’s media? Not well. Before leaving Poland to travel back Stateside, Romney told Fox News he blamed the media for all his stumbling blocks abroad.
Since Mitt Romney emerged from the GOP presidential primary fight as the last candidate standing, the former Massachusetts governor has struggledto differentiate his Iran policy (or any foreign policy) from President Obama’s. That changed this weekend when a top adviser said Romney would not allow Iran to acquire a nuclear weapons “capability” and that a President Romney would support an Israeli attack on Iran.
But yesterday, another top Romney adviser Richard Williamson went a bit further. Pressed by CNN’s Soledad O’Brien to offer a substantive difference between Romney’s and Obama’s Iran policies, Williamson at first struggled but ultimately said that the military option should be “seriously considered” if Iran “gets to nuclear breakout”:
O’BRIEN: So, are you telling me that Governor Romney would be willing to bomb Iran if it looks like they’re getting nuclear weapons? That they would whether it’s with or without Israel, bomb Iran to end that — they cross the red line, bomb Iran?
WILLIAMSON: I’m saying two things. First, on the sanctions, it’s not just talking abstractly about sanctions. This administration has allowed Moscow and Beijing to determine what sanctions we can put in force. Governor Romney has made clear he’s going to put tough sanctions in force for the coalition and not play “Mother, may I” with the U.N. Security Council.
Second, that Tehran should know that Governor Romney is committed to work everything possible diplomatically to avoid having to use force. But if it gets to nuclear breakout, military options are on the table and have to be seriously considered.
Watch the interview (conversation quoted above begins at 3:02):
While it’s unclear what Williamson means by “breakout,” that threshold by some definitions is lower than nuclear weapons capability. “Breakout” could mean the decision to acquire and action on acquiring all the necessary components for a bomb (such as enriching low-enriched uranium to a higher purity), while “capability,” what Romney’s adviser previously referred to last weekend, could be described as actually obtaning all the necessary components after the decision to breakout.
As this blog has previous noted, While Obama has said an Iranian nuclear weapon is “unacceptable,” declaring a nuclear “capability” an American “red line” that would trigger war sets a lower threshold for U.S. military involvement. The CIA has laid out a specific definition, but again, the “nuclear capability” language is a complex issue. The word “capability” has a special meaning in the non-proliferation context, but it’s not always clear exactly what. Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT), one of the Senate’s most vociferous Iran hawks, said this year, “I guess everybody will determine for themselves what that means.” Iran hawks in Congress pushed a bill this year to shift the official U.S. “red line” to a nuclear “capability.”
In 2008, then-candidate Barack Obama traveled to Europe and was greeted by hundreds of thousands of supporters and excitedforeign leaders at almosteverystopalong his tour. Pundits across the board labeled the trip a success for the campaign, so it’s understandable why, four years later, candidate Mitt Romney thought it would be a good idea to do an overseas trip of his own.
Things haven’t exactly gone according to plan, though. During his first stop in London, Romney enraged an entire country by questioning Great Britain’s readiness to host the olympics, which began the day he arrived. The notoriously merciless UK media flambéed Romney with big headlines and scathing editorials.
Romney then moved on to Israel, where he explained to a room full of wealthy donors why Palestinians were generally poorer than Israelis due to their inferior “culture.” Israeli and Arab press alike were incensed, calling the remark racist (a charge the Romney campaign vigorously denies.)
And then today in Poland, as reporters who had traveled a cumulative 10,000 miles with the campaign faced their sixth day without having an opportunity to ask a single question to the candidate, a Romney campaign spokesman told a restless gaggle to “kiss my ass” when they tried to shout their questions at Romney as he left Pilsudski Square in Warsaw.
A Mitt Romney spokesman told reporters to “kiss my ass” when they tried to ask the candidate questions about his trip abroad on Tuesday.
Seemingly without irony, traveling press secretary Rick Gorka told reporters to “show some respect” and to “shove it” because they were trying to get Romney to answer questions about his numerousgaffesabroad while at the Polish tomb of the unknown.
Reporters have had virtually no access to the candidate during his three-country tour. When they frustratedly told Gorka “we haven’t had another chance to ask him questions.” Gorka responded, “kiss my ass.” CNN has the video:
While Romney has granted interviews to numerous TV stations in the US, as well as some foreign media, the campaign has blocked the traveling press pool from interacting with the candidate in unstructured settings, as CNN’s Jim Acosta explained this morning. Reporters who flew to England, Israel, and Poland with the candidate have only been able to ask a total of three questions — all on the first day.
Gorka has since apologized for his comments, and Romney adviser Stuart Stevens said of the trip “I think it was a great success.”
Between annoying the British and alienating the Palestinians, Mitt Romney seems to have found trouble everywhere he went on his overseas campaign trip. Now, the Polish trade union Solidarity, once led by Romney’s host in Poland Lech Wałęsa, disavowed the GOP presidential hopeful because of his anti-union politics.
Romney went to Gdańsk, Poland to meet with Wałęsa, who in 1980, led a workers’ strike in the Gdańsk Shipyard and helped create the Solidarity trade union. Solidarity became a thorn in the side of the Soviet-backed government, and Wałęsa eventually became a Nobel laureate and the first president of a free Poland. Wałęsa was reportedly miffed when Obama wouldn’t grant him a private greeting, and invited Romney for a visit.
Regretfully, we were informed by our friends from the American headquarters of (trade union federation) AFL-CIO, which represents more than 12 million employees … that Mitt Romney supported attacks on trade unions and employees’ rights.
Solidarity was not involved in organizing Romney’s meeting with Wałęsa and did not invite him to visit Poland.
– Mitt Romney tried to clarify his statement last March that Russia is America’s “number one geopolitical foe” on CNN yesterday. “I’m talking about most of the United Nations and actions of a geopolitical nature, Russia is the number one adversary in that regard,” he said. “That doesn’t make them an enemy. It doesn’t make them a combatant. They don’t represent the number one national security threat.”
– Obama administration officials say that the threat of defense industry layoffs is overblown and that Republicans are playing up the possibility rather than trying to head it off. The Labor Department said Monday that it would be “inappropriate” for contractors to send out large-scale dismissal notices, because it is unclear whether the federal cuts will occur and how they would be carried out.
– House and Senate lawmakers agreed on a bill yesterday that moves the U.S. closer to imposing more sanctions on Iran. The bill includes measures to curb Iran’s oil business and crackdowns on human rights.
– Defense Secretary Leon Panetta sent a tacit message to Israeli leaders on Monday, urging that diplomacy and economic pressure be given more time to work before they move ahead with any military strike on Iran.
– Turkey has sent more troops and military equipment to the Syrian border to shore up its defense there. Meanwhile, Arab and Muslim men from Libya, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Britain, Belgium and even the U.S. have traveled to Syria to join the Free Syrian Army forces.
Mitt Romney’s main theme on his foreign trip to the U.K., Israel and Poland this week is that President Obama isn’t sufficiently friendly to America’s allies, particularly the Jewish State. “The people of Israel deserve better than what they have received from the leader of the free world,” Romney said in a speech just days before he left American soil.
But two senior Israeli leaders have a different view. In recent interviews with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer that aired this afternoon, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and President Shimon Peres praised Obama’s commitment to Israel:
BARAK: I should tell you honestly that this administration under President Obama is doing, in regard to our security, more than anything that I can remember in the past. … In terms of the support for our security, the cooperation of our intelligence, the sharing of sorts in a very open way even when there are differences.
PERES: When I look at the record of President Obama concerning the major issues, security, I think it’s a highly satisfactory record, from an Israeli point of view.
Watch the clips:
Praise for Obama’s policies toward Israel isnothingnew forBarak andPeres, but the timing of their recent acclaim is significant given Romney’s theme that the president isn’t pro-Israel.
Even Blitzer took notice. “They were extremely complimentary to President Obama, both of them, even as Romney was still basically on the ground in Israel,” Blitzer said today. “I was pretty surprised by the effusive enthusiastic praise they had for President Obama given some of the problems President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu had in their personal relationship.”
Indeed, just last week, Obama signed a measure approving $70 million for Israel’s short-range rocket shield known as “Iron Dome.” “I have made it a top priority for my administration to deepen cooperation with Israel across a whole spectrum of security issues,” Obama said.
During a speech today at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace marking the release of a report about religious freedom around the world, Secretary of State HIllary Clinton took a moment to deal with religious freedom a little closer to home. Specifically, she touched obliquely on accusations made about a top staffer in her office by Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN).
In a letter to the State Department demanding an investigation into alleged Muslim Brotherhood infiltration, Bachmann suggested Clinton aide Huma Abedin is tied to Muslim Bortherhood and exercising influence on what Bachmann said were “actions recently that have been enormously favorable to the Muslim Brotherhood and its interests.”
In a thinly veiled reference, Clinton lauded those Republicans who stood up to Bachmann’s bogus and Islamophobic allegations:
Leaders have to be active in stepping in and sending messages about protecting the diversity within their countries. … We did see some of that in our own country. We saw Republicans stepping up and standing up against the kind of assaults that really have no place in our politics.
Religion is a personal issue to every one of the people who lives in the United States, whether you practice a faith, how you practice a faith, whether you don’t practice a faith, whether you say you’re a member of a faith but don’t practice it, it’s none of the government’s business. And this is the whole issue of religious freedom.
Former presidential candidate and Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich
At a Romney campaign event in Virginia on Monday, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich took questions over his weekend op-ed defending the practice of questioning prominent Muslims in government jobs over alleged ties to the Muslim Brotherhood.
Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) and four other Republican lawmakers have been wrapped on the knuckles by prominentmembers of their own party for requesting an investigation into the supposed infiltration of the Muslim Brotherhood into the U.S. government, and the role of Huma Abedin, a top Hillary Clinton aide, in the organization. And while Gingrich deliberately did not mention Abedin in his Sunday evening op-ed, when asked by ThinkProgress on Monday, he defended Bachmann’s call for an investigation into Abedin’s loyalty:
ADAM PECK: Do you think it was fair for the “National Security 5″ to explicitly name Huma Abedin in this letter?
GINGRICH: I think all they asked for was an investigation. I can’t imagine, given our track record over the last 70 years, that we want to start with the principle that anybody is automatically exempt. And therefore I think it’s not illegitimate to raise the question, it’s not a question I raised in my piece…Who’s offering advice to Secretary Clinton? I think it’s totally legitimate to ask that question.
What Gingrich failed to mention is that the appropriate questions have already been asked of Abedin and every other member of the Obama administration. As the top aide to the Secretary of State, Abedin underwent a thorough background and security check before assuming her position within the State Department. It seems Gingrich has stricter standards than the nation’s top intelligence agencies, which cleared Abedin.
Gingrich also makes the incorrect assumption that simply raising questions is a harmless exercise. In the weeks since Bachmann’s letter became public, Abedin has been subjected to direct threats on her life, and the NYPD has given her a security detail.
Listen to the remarks here:
Head Of U.N. Syria Mission Attacked |
A convoy carrying the head of a U.N. monitoring mission to Syria was attacked over the weekend, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon told reporters on Monday. “It’s quite fortunate that nobody got injured by these attacks,” Ban said. “It was only because of these armored vehicles which protected our mission.” U.N. officials told Reuters five vehicles were fired upon by small arms in a village outside Homs controlled by rebels. Ten days ago, the U.N. Security Council voted to extend the mission for a month.
I come here and I look out over this city and consider the accomplishments of the people of this nation, I recognize the power of at least culture and a few other things. …
As you come here and you see the GDP per capita, for instance, in Israel which is about $21,000 dollars, and compare that with the GDP per capita just across the areas managed by the Palestinian Authority, which is more like $10,000 per capita, you notice such a dramatically stark difference in economic vitality.
Palestinians took offense at Romney’s remarks, interpreting them to mean that Israel had the superior culture, and claimed that their economic development has been stymied by continued Israeli occupation. In response, the Romney campaign claimed the statement was “grossly mischaracterized” and chided the press for omitting the candidate’s full remarks. To contextualize Romney’s comparison — which actually underestimated the disparity between Israel’s GDP of US$31,000 to the West Bank and Gaza’s US$1,500 — the campaign offered his next line as proof that he did not target Palestinians: “And that is also between other countries that are near or next to each other. Chile and Ecuador, Mexico and the United States.”
This defense underscores the fundamental tone-deafness of the comparison. To give the full context, Romney discussed two economic theories, one attributing success to the physical characteristics of the land, while another attributes it to culture. He argued that the successes of Israel, the U.S. and Chile can be attributed to strong cultures; conversely, the geographically similar Palestinian, Ecuadorean and Mexican economies are the result of a poorer culture.
The “culture” argument doesn’t merely imply that poorer economies somehow deserve their fate due to an inferior value system. It makes generalizations about the characters of both populations. Abraham Diskin, a political scientist professor from Tel Aviv pointed out, “You can understand this remark in several ways. You can say it’s anti-Semitic. ‘Jews and money.’”
Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) defended Romney in a news conference: “I am sure that Gov. Romney was not talking about difference in cultures, or difference in anybody superior or inferior.” McCain chalked up the difference in economies to regulations, saying, “It has nothing to do with culture.”
Now, Fox News’ conservative host Greta Van Susteren has joined the chorus of journalists complaining about treatment from the Romney campaign. As she follows the campaign through Poland today, Van Susteren posted to her blog saying that the press has had no access to the candidate, and that she feels like she is in a petting zoo:
There has been no press access to Governor Romney since we landed in Poland. We (press) are in a holding pattern (I can’t help but feel a bit like the press is a modified petting zoo since we are trapped in a bus while Polish citizens take pictures of us.) Under the headline “Governor Romney won’t like this” we saw a big sign in the crowd for Rep Ron Paul.
The Romney campaign has granted some interviews to journalists, including Van Susteren herself. But he has been much more secretive than predecessors, including Obama who, when traveling abroad, held two press conferences, two appearances on Sunday talk shows, and several television and in-person interviews.
Top Syrian Diplomat In London Reportedly Defects |
The British Foreign Office said today that Syrian charge d’affaires Khaled Ayoubi, the highest-ranking Syrian diplomat in London, has abandoned his post. Ayoubi “has told us that he is no longer willing to represent a regime that has committed such violent and oppressive acts against its own people, and is therefore unable to continue in his position,” a Foreign Office spokesperson said in a statement. “His departure is another blow to the Assad regime.”
In their current campaign against automatic military spending cuts, Republican Senators John McCain (AZ), Lindsey Graham (SC) and Kelly Ayotte (NH) claim the reductions will be “devastating” to the U.S. military. But when asked to provide specifics on that claim on CNN this morning, McCain came up empty:
SOLEDAD O’BRIEN: Senator McCain, let’s start with you, if we can. The $500 billion cut over the next 10 years. You’ve had said that sequestration would be devastating. Give me a list of why?
MCCAIN: Well, first of all, it’s on top of another $460 billion that is already being cut. Second of all, it’s the view of Secretary Panetta and our uniform leaders who have used words like devastating, impossible to carry out our national security, challenge — meet those security challenges in the most graphic terms they have used as to the effects of these cuts.
And not to mention the job losses — the over a million jobs that would be lost and the billions of dollars also in defense industry so it’s a very serious situation.
Watch the clip:
Panetta does repeatedlysay the military spending sequester would be “devastating” to the U.S. military but he has also failed to explain why. Panetta’s most specific remark on this point has been to say that the U.S. would have to reduce its presence in Latin America and Africa — i.e. hardly a “devastating” blow to the military or U.S. security. Moreover, a recent non-partisan Congressional Budget Office report found that the automatic spending cuts would bring the Pentagon’s budget back to what it spent in 2006.
As for McCain’s jobs argument, defense industry CEOs and other experts have said warnings that the military spending cuts will damage the economy and cause massive layoffs are “overblown.” And if you’re going to argue that federal spending is necessary to create jobs — a concept Republicans are now embracing in order to protect the nation’s bloated military budget — it’s probably better to, as one study has found, try to direct those dollars away from the Pentagon toward other domestic priorities.
Mitt Romney’s speech yesterday in Jerusalem focused on easy applause lines for his right-wing audience, including major donors. He was hawkishon Iran, declared Jerusalem the capital of Israel, and said the U.S. should not publicly criticize Israel. Completely absent was any mention of the other residents of the Holy Land and its marquee city: Palestinians.
When Romney finally did broach the topic, he raised the ire of Palestinian officials by attributing Israel’s successes to “the power of at least culture and a few other things,” and contrasting Israeli economic gains to those of its Palestinian neighbors. At a fundraising breakfast on Monday morning, Romney said:
[A]s I come here and I look out over this city and consider the accomplishments of the people of this nation, I recognize the power of at least culture and a few other things. …
As you come here and you see the GDP per capita, for instance, in Israel which is about $21,000 dollars, and compare that with the GDP per capita just across the areas managed by the Palestinian Authority, which is more like $10,000 per capita, you notice such a dramatically stark difference in economic vitality.
In addition to vastly understating the disparity between Israel and the Occupied Palestinian territories — per capita GDP is actually $31,000 in Israel and $1,500 in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip — Romney incensed Palestinians.
Saeb Erekat, a top official in the Palestinian Authority (PA), the body that has partially governed the occupied territories since the Oslo Accords, blasted Romney’s statement:
It is a racist statement and this man doesn’t realize that the Palestinian economy cannot reach its potential because there is an Israeli occupation.
It seems to me this man lacks information, knowledge, vision and understanding of this region and its people. He also lacks knowledge about the Israelis themselves. I have not heard any Israeli official speak about cultural superiority.
While in Israel, Romney didn’t meet with PA President Mahmood Abbas, but he did briefly visit with Prime Minister Salam Fayyad. Fayyad is well-regarded by Israelis and Americans alike for his attempts at institution building, something that dovetails with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s sometimes faltering plan for “economic peace” with the Palestinians.
– Mitt Romney is on his way to Poland today where he will “wrap himself in the symbolism of the Cold War” after a contentious visit with the British and a stop in Israel that saw the presumptive GOP presidential nominee attack President Obama and lay out a more militaristic policy toward Iran.
– Syria’s foreign minister blamed Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar for the escalating violence in Syria and vowed to defeat rebel fighters in Aleppo.
– The Los Angeles Times reports: Egypt’s recent election of an Islamist president has rekindled a long-suppressed display of public piousness that has aroused both “moral vigilantism” and personal acts of faith, such as demands that police officers and flight attendants be allowed to grow beards. Scattered incidents of violence and intimidation do not appear to have been organized, but they represent a disturbing trend in Egypt’s transition to democracy.
– Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said yesterday that he does not think Israel has made the decision to strike Iran and that his goal in meeting with Israeli officials this week is to strengthen ties with the U.S.
– The Pentagon is reportedly beginning to consider the possibility of automatic military spending cuts going into effect at the beginning of next year.
Fresh off of telling the United Kingdom that it wasn’t ready for the Olympics during an tour of London, Romney unsubtly jabbed President Obama in Jerusalem this Sunday — as he often does on U.S. soil — for criticizing Israeli policy. Romney suggested that any public criticism of Israel in public would be off-limits in a Romney Presidency:
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 in our public between our nations emboldens Israel’s adversaries.
Romney regularly attacks While Romney is right to say that Israel is a close American ally that deserves our support, that doesn’t mean we can’t or shouldn’t ever publicly criticize Israel when we believe it to be in American (or Israeli) interests. Indeed, though Romney said the United States and Israel have “been the most natural of allies” since 1948, every Republican President since then has publicly criticized Israeli policies:
George W. Bush: President Bush, who once said “it is untenable for Palestinians to live in squalor and occupation,” rebuked Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon for announcing construction in the West Bank town Ma’ale Adumim, saying “the road map calls for no expansion of the settlements.”
George H.W. Bush: Like his son, Bush Sr. condemned settlement activity, saying “we do not believe there should be new settlements in the West Bank or in East Jerusalem.” He also pushed Israel to stay out of the first Gulf War.
Ronald Reagan: After Israel attacked Iraq’s Osirak nuclear reactor, Reagan’s administration voted to condemn Israel in the U.N. Security Council. Reagan also temporarily halted security cooperation with Israel after its 1981 annexation of the Golan heights.
Gerald Ford: Ford promised a “reassessment” of US-Israel relations after failed US diplomacy with respect to an Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty.
Richard Nixon: In a United Nations debate, George H.W. Bush (then representing Nixon at the U.N.) said, with respect to settlements, “We regret Israel’s failure to acknowledge its obligations under the Fourth Geneva Convention as well as its actions which are contrary to the letter and the spirit of this convention.”
Dwight Eisenhower: The first Republican President to handle diplomacy with Israel threatened it with sanctions as a consequence of its actions in the 1956 Suez Crisis, and told Americans in a radio address that “It was a matter of keen disappointment to us that the Government of Israel, despite the United Nations action, still felt unwilling to withdraw” from territory taken in the war.
Setting aside the merits of the GOP’s historical criticism, it’s clear that past Republican presidents didn’t shirk from publicly finding fault with Israel when they felt it was necessary. Romney, then, is repudiating his party’s traditional approach to handling the US-Israeli relationship. This suggests either that previous Republican Presidents have “emboldened Israel’s enemies” or that Israel’s ties with America are strong enough to weather occasional public disagreement.
Romney explicitly extended his comments to the settlement issue in an interview with CNN, telling Wolf Blitzer that settlements “are something that should be discussed in private by the American president and our allies.”