JERUSALEM (JTA) — Mitt Romney at a policy speech in Jerusalem addressed the alleged Iranian nuclear weapons program and changes in the Arab world.
Most of all, however, the 15-minute address at a park overlooking the Old City focused on what Romney, the presumptive Republican presidential candidate, called the “enduring shared values” of the United States and Israel.
“The security of Israel is in the vital national security interest of the United States,” Romney told a crowd of 500. “We serve the same cause and we provoke the same hatreds in the same enemies.”
He never mentioned the Palestinians or the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.
The first section of the speech focused on the threat of a nuclear-armed Iran, which has been a major theme of Romney’s foreign policy statements.
Preventing a nuclear Iran is America’s “highest national security priority,” he said. “It would be foolish not to take the leaders of Iran at their word. We have a moral imperative to deny Iran’s leaders the means to follow through on their malevolent intent.”
Romney invoked the fast day of the ninth of Av, which was ending that day, as he spoke about Iran. The fast day commemorates the destruction of both Holy Temples in Jerusalem.
“It’s remarkable to consider how much adversity is recalled by just one day on the calendar,” he said. “It calls forth clarity and resolve.”
Romney also quoted former Israeli Prime Minister Menahem Begin twice and mentioned the 11 Israeli athletes and coaches murdered at the Munich Olympics in 1972.
In the second half of the speech, Romney addressed changes in the region, which he called “tumult.” He called on Egypt’s new president, Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood, to keep Israel’s peace treaty with Egypt and admonished Syrian President Bashar Assad, whom he called “no friend to Israel and no friend to America,” for killing his own citizens.
The speech came near the end of a day in which Romney met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, President Shimon Peres, Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad and other leaders. Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat introduced Romney before the speech.
Romney in the meetings Sunday with Netanyahu affirmed the strong alliance between the United States and Israel, and also spoke of the threat a nuclear Iran would pose to the U.S. and Israel.
“As we face the challenges of an Iran seeking nuclear capability, we must draw upon our interests and our values to take them on a different course,” Romney said in his meeting with Netanyahu.
In his meeting with Peres, Romney said the threat that Iran “would pose to Israel, the region and the world is incomprehensible and unacceptable.”
Hours before Romney’s speech, his liaison to the Jewish community, Dan Senor, said that Romney if elected would support a unilateral Israeli strike on Iranian nuclear facilities.
“If Israel has to take action on its own, in order to stop Iran from developing the capability, the governor would respect that decision,” Senor said in a news briefing, according to The Associated Press.
Romney said he saw special significance in visiting Israel on the fast of the ninth of Av, which commemorates the destruction of the First and Second Temples in Jerusalem. He called the day “a time of remembrance of many lives that have been lost to tragedy and terror.”
After leaving Peres, Romney met with Shaul Mofaz, the head of the centrist Kadima Party that broke away from Netanyahu’s governing coalition earlier this month.
Also Sunday, Romney and his wife, Ann, visited the Western Wall, where they each placed a note between its stones. Romney wore a black kipah.