Washington Watch: Will Romney outsource foreign policy?


07/11/2012 23:24

If Romney has a successful visit he can expect more millions from Adelson and so can Netanyahu.
Earlier in this space I noted how Mitt Romney seems to emulate Groucho Marx’s famous line, “I have my principles, and if you don’t like them, I have others.” That was on display again last week when he was tied in knots contradicting himself and his top advisers on both immigration and Romneycare following two key Supreme Court decisions.

The centerpiece of Romney’s outreach to Jewish voters and donors and to other friends of Israel is to attack Barack Obama as an unreliable supporter of the Jewish state, hurling charges that the incumbent has tossed Israel “under the bus” and vowing to do the opposite of whatever Obama has done.

THAT STRATEGY conveniently ignores Obama’s increased aid for Israel, commitments to provide previously denied top-ofthe- line weapons systems, leadership in thwarting Iran’s nuclear ambitions and efforts to block the Palestinian bid for UN recognition. And it raises the question of whether Romney would tell both sides “I can get you a better deal” and then when they complain about the results blame it on Obama.

Will Netanyahu give his friend Romney some message of flexibility to take to the Palestinians so the GOP candidate can boast he is better suited to help make peace than Obama? Romney, who has not revealed his Middle East itinerary, may also make a stop in Cairo to upstage Obama by meeting Egypt’s newly elected president, Mohamed Mursi, before the American president gets a chance to see him in September. Obama invited Mursi to get together this fall when the Islamist leader is expected to attend the United Nations General Assembly.

Democrats are having some success in hitting Romney for outsourcing American jobs, and this Israel trip may add a new dimension to those attacks. Romney said in one of the debates, “We will not have an inch of difference between ourselves and our ally Israel,” and before taking any action regarding the Middle East “I’d get on the phone to my friend Bibi Netanyahu and say: ‘Would it help if I say this? What would you like me to do?’” That sounds a lot like Romney plans to contract out Middle East policy to Netanyahu, who he’s known since their days as young MBAs at the Boston Consulting Group in the Seventies.

NETANYAHU’S DISDAIN for Obama is no secret, and Romney’s statements indicating that as president he would take his cues on Middle East policy, if not directions, from Netanyahu makes this trip unusually sensitive. Netanyahu once told an interviewer “I speak Republican” and his senior adviser, Ron Dermer, was a Republican operative before making aliyah. Some in the Israeli media have dubbed Netanyahu the Republican senator from Israel.

Netanyahu would like to at least appear neutral in the US election, despite his well known personal preferences, but he also knows every word he says will be carefully scrutinized not only at the White House but by his good friend and generous benefactor, billionaire Sheldon Adelson, who has been pouring tens of millions of dollars into the anti-Obama campaigns.

Romney can expect enthusiastic and flattering coverage of his trip from Israel’s largest daily newspaper, Israel HaYom, which not-so-coincidentally is owned by Adelson. And if Romney has a successful visit he can expect more millions from Adelson and so can Netanyahu.

Romney’s trip probably won’t win him any additional Jewish votes but it could help in raising additional money from Adelson and fellow wealthy, ultra-conservative Jewish players who are both staunch Republicans and extreme hardliners for whom Israel is the determinative political issue.