For a convention focused on the economy and taxes at a time when foreign policy is hardly considered an issue, any mention of Israel at the GOP gathering is worth noticing.
It may not amount to 15 minutes of fame, but a 95-second video in a tight convention schedule is also something. The video, titled Israel: Cherished Memories, summarizes Mitt Romney’s July visit to Jerusalem with highlights from his speech and the obligatory photo ops at the Western Wall and with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu.
Israel also got brief shout outs in the foreign policy speeches Wednesday of John McCain and former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
But behind the scenes, Israel is a major issue for all those involved in Jewish politics and Middle East advocacy. The American Israel Public Affairs Committee held receptions for Republican lawmakers and delegates and the Republican Jewish Coalition hosted a salute for pro-Israel elected officials. Taking the stage at the event, the Senators and members of Congress made the case for voting Republican, because of Israel.
“I don’t know how there are any Jewish Democrats,” said Missouri Republican Billy Long, “With what Obama did to Bibi Netanayahu, I don’t know how there are any Jewish Democrats.”
Ted Cruz, who Republicans hope will be the next Senator from Texas, took on the Iran issue, telling the audience that if Iran “is getting too close” to becoming nuclear, “I’m sure Israel will act.” He added that in case on an Israeli attack, he’d be “thankful” because Israel would be acting to protect American security as well.
A more nuanced approach was presented by South Carolina’s Lindsey Graham who sits on the Senate Armed Services committee. Graham told the Forward that a future Romney administration would “give Iran a clear choice” and that he will “give red lines to the Iranian regime.”
No one seemed to have the appetite for getting into details. Speakers on the convention podium, including Condoleezza Rice spoke in general about taking back America’s leading role in the world, instead of “leading from behind,” but did not provide much substance. Advisers to the Romney campaign also avoided wading into the specifics of a future Republican administration’s policy regarding the Syrian civil war, Iran’s nuclear ambitions, or the moribund Israeli – Palestinians peace process.
Nathan Guttman, staff writer, was the Forward’s Washington bureau chief. He joined the staff in 2006 after serving for five years as Washington correspondent for the Israeli dailies Haaretz and The Jerusalem Post. In Israel, he was the features editor for Ha’aretz and chief editor of Channel 1 TV evening news. He was born in Canada and grew up in Israel. He is a graduate of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.