Sun July 29, 2012
Romney In Israel After Rocky Start To Foreign Tour
Originally published on Sun August 5, 2012 1:57 pm
DAVID GREENE, HOST:
This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. Good morning, I'm David Greene.
Mitt Romney, the presumptive Republican nominee for president, is in Israel today. He spent the morning meeting with Israeli and Palestinian officials, and he paid a visit to the historic Wailing Wall. Romney, just a few minutes ago, wrapped up a speech near the Old City in Jerusalem. And in it he talked of his commitment to stand side by side with the Israeli government on Iran.
(SOUNDBITE OF SPEECH)
MITT ROMNEY: We must lead the effort to prevent Iran from building and possessing nuclear weapons capability. We should employ any and all measures to dissuade the Iranian regime from its nuclear course. And it is our fervent hope that diplomatic and economic measures will do so. In the final analysis, of course, no option should be excluded. We recognize Israeli's right to defend itself, and that it is right for America to stand with you.
GREENE: That's Mitt Romney just a short while ago in Jerusalem. The Republican candidate is on the second stop of a much-anticipated foreign trip that got off to a rocky start in London. Sheera Frenkel is in Jerusalem covering Romney's visit there today. Sheera, good morning.
SHEERA FRENKEL, BYLINE: Hi, good morning.
GREENE: So, we just heard Romney in his own words on Iran. Pretty tough. No option off the table. I mean, give us a sense of what else he said and how the speech was received by the audience there.
FRENKEL: It seemed to be very well received by the audience and he received several standing ovations that were of note. One of those was when in the beginning of his speech, he said Jerusalem was the capital of Israel. That's a position that's not officially taken by the U.S. government. And the U.S. still maintains its embassy in Tel Aviv, and only keeps a consular office here in Jerusalem.
He also received a standing ovation directly after that when he said that the security of Israel was in the vital national security interest of the United State.
Those are both going to be points that are hugely popular with an Israeli audience. And, of course, the main focus of his speech was Iran's nuclear weapons program. He talked at length about the need to stop Iran's acquiring nuclear weapons, and that was the thing you heard earlier in his speech's opening remarks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the president, Shimon Peres.
GREENE: Romney also spoke about a close friendship he says he has with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Can you give us a bit of a more understanding of that relationship?
FRENKEL: You really saw both of them mention this friendship again and during their meetings today. In the morning meeting, the photo op that everyone will see will be of Netanyahu and Romney smiling at one another, patting each other on the back. Both of them took every opportunity possible to mention the fact that this is a friendship that goes back decades. And it seems what Romney's people are really showing here is that in stark opposition to President Obama, who was pictured with Netanyahu looking slightly uncomfortable. Some people even called that, you know, picture cold. Romney's photograph with Netanyahu is going to show two people who clearly get along and enjoy each other's company.
GREENE: And Romney, as I understand it, did also meet with Palestinian officials today.
FRENKEL: Romney met with Palestine Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, and that meeting was closed to the press. And the opening remarks that we heard, the two of them only discussed the Olympics; their interest in the London Olympics and the fact that they were both there. So, there was actually very little that was discussed in front of the press during that meeting. They talked about the peace process, to where the Palestinian position stands at the moment.
What we understand confirmed from (unintelligible) was that he was going to raise a number of important issue with Romney; chief among them the lack of progress on the peace process. But at this point, we don't know how Romney responded to any of that.
GREENE: And Sheera, we should say that Governor Romney managed to get himself into a bit of a tangle with the British press, and also with British Prime Minister David Cameron on the first part of this trip in London. Has he done a bit better on this leg? And I guess, what does he hope to accomplish by visiting Israel?
FRENKEL: I think this leg of the trip was about appearing statesman-like. And I do think that he has been more successful on that front here in Israel than he was in London when he went to Western Wall earlier today. We could hear people in the crowd around him calling out: Go Romney, beat Obama, good luck with the election. People seemed to really receive him and welcome him warmly. So, clearly, the Israeli public is feeling - is expressing support for Romney.
GREENE: Sheera FRENKEL in Jerusalem, covering Mitt Romney's visit today to Israel. Sheera, thanks so much.
FRENKEL: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright National Public Radio.