Obama vs. Romney 101: 4 differences on Israel

President Obama made the Israeli-Palestinian peace process a priority from the first week of his administration, but his positions have rankled Israel’s conservative coalition government, while not advancing the parties toward peace. Mitt Romney insists he would be a better friend to Israel and opposes public pressure on Israel to compromise for peace with the Palestinians. 

Here are some of the issues on which the candidates differ.

1. Israel's threats to bomb Iran

Mr. Obama has worked hard to convince Israel that diplomacy (and diplomacy’s coercive instrument, sanctions) has not yet played out. Mr. Romney sounds like Obama in calling for tougher sanctions, but he employs a more aggressive vocabulary toward Iran.

And where Obama has tried to convince Israel that Iran’s nuclear progress is still not at a point that requires an imminent decision on bombing, Romney suggests that as president he would give Israel the benefit of the doubt in deciding if and when to bomb Iran.

On a high-profile visit to Israel in July, Romney called Iran a “radical theocracy” that is the “most destabilizing nation in the world,” and he said the US has “a solemn duty and a moral imperative to deny Iran’s leaders the means to follow through on their malevolent intentions.” 

The former Massachusetts governor’s chief national security adviser, Dan Senor, said the US under a President Romney would support Israel if it decided to take unilateral military action against Iran. “If Israel has to take action on its own,” he said during the Israel trip, “the governor would respect that decision.” 

On Iran, one key policy difference does stand out between Obama and Romney: While Obama continues to insist that he would not accept Iran’s development and possession of a nuclear weapon, Romney has differentiated himself by saying he would not accept Iran developing a “nuclear weapons capability” – language employed by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the US Congress that suggests a lower threshold for attacking Iran.

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