TEL AVIV (EJP) ---An international survey on American-Israeli relations has found Israelis consider US Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney a more ‘friendly’ proposition for Israel than current incumbent Barack Obama.
The poll, commissioned by the Israeli Bar-Ilan University in collaboration with the Anti-Defamation League revealed that while 45% of Israeli respondents considered Obama to be ‘friendly’ towards Israel, 29% of those polled thought Romney would better promote Israel’s interests, compared to 22% for Obama.
Furthermore, after nearly four years in office and in the run-up to November’s presidential elections, 49% of Israelis polled did not know or declined to answer questions regarding Obama’s Israel agenda.
The poll which was released ahead of a conference on American-Israeli relations at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies at Bar-Ilan University on Sunday and Monday came as Romney continued stating that he would do “the opposite” to Obama regarding Israel on his presidential campaign trail.
On Saturday,the Republican nominee told the Christian Faith and Freedom Coalition that the president is more concerned about Israel attacking Iran than about Iran developing nuclear weapons.
His comments were precisely timed as Obama prepared to join the next round of talks between Western powers and Iran regarding the Islamist State’s nuclear programme in Moscow on Monday.
Speaking from Pennsylvania, Romney claimed that “I think, by and large, you can just look at the things the president has done and do the opposite”.
Referring to widespread reports of a fractured relationship between Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, he continued: “If we have disagreements, you know, we can talk about them behind closed doors. But to the world, you show that we’re locked arm-in-arm”.
Meanwhile, US New Yorker magazine ran an article claiming that the White House believes the Israeli Prime Minister hopes for a Romney win in the US presidential elections on November 6 to improve American foreign policy regarding Israel.
According to the article’s author; the magazine’s White House correspondent Ryan Lizza, the Israeli-Palestinian peace process is expected to dominate Obama’s foreign policy mandate during a second term.
Writing of Obama’s hopes to push for a renewal of peace talks between the two sides, Lizza claimed: “The President would not get personally involved (in the Israeli-Palestinian issue), as his two predecessors did, unless he was certain that Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, wanted a deal”.
According to a survey published earlier this year by the American Jewish Committee (AJC) on the US-Jewish electorate, 45% of Jewish voters would choose Romney on the issue of US-Israel relations, compared to 42% for Obama, with 22% of Jews claiming it was the most important issue in deciding which candidate to vote for.
According to one of Romney’s senior campaign advisors on Jewish and Israel issues, Jewish Republican and former deputy secretary of the US Department of Health and Human Services under former President George W. Bush, Tevi Troy, under Romney “I think you’d see a more supportive approach when it comes to the US-Israel relationship. I think you’d see a president in Romney who’s more concerned with Iran building nuclear weapons then Israelis building apartment buildings in Jerusalem.”
Indeed, Romney’s campaign team have been keen to emphasise his “close relationship” with Benjamin Netanyahu going back decades. Netanyahu himself refuted such claims in an interview this month with US Time Magazine in which, whilst he admitted meeting Romney while working together at Boston Consulting Group, he insisted, “we did not know each other that well. He was the whiz kid. I was just in the back of the room.” He went on to say he has not kept in regular contact with Romney, seeing him only handfuls of times in the interim period, including once earlier this year on a visit to Washington, where they discussed Iran.
According to Israeli officials, Romney’s team have already set the wheels in motion for an early campaign visit to Israel at the end of June, an allegation his staff has so far denied. According to political consultant Jonny Daniels, who is a senior advisor to Knesset Deputy speaker Danny Danon, the trip is “definitely being planned”.
If it goes ahead, it would emulate Obama’s 2008 campaign trail, during which he paid a brief visit to the country, something he hasn’t repeated in his time in office.
“The message that it’s (an Israel visit) really going to send to us is that we have a friend,” said Daniels, adding “he’s willing to take time out of his schedule to stand with us”.
Political analysts have said such a visit would be designed to capitalise on Obama’s poorly-perceived record on Israel, with Romney having already accused the president of throwing the country “under the bus”. Romney has previously stated during his campaign that the US must “continue supporting Israel and increase military aid to our strongest friend and ally”.
Meanwhile during Israeli President’ Shimon Peres’ state visit to Washington last week, US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta declared that American commitment to Israeli security remains “rock solid”.
The visit was designed to coincide with the Israeli statesman being awarded America’s highest civilian honour, The Presidential Medal of Freedom, from Obama. Describing the bonds between the US and Israel as “unbreakable” and “non-negotiable”, the president lauded “our friend” Peres as “the essence of Israel itself ) an indomitable spirit that will not be denied”.
Peres, in turn lauded Obama for his “historic” commitment to Israel, saying:“You have pledged a lasting friendship for Israel. You stated that Israel’s security is ‘sacrosanct’. So you pledged. So you acted. As a great leader, as a genuine friend.”