What We Learned About Romney on His Israel Trip

The Israel leg of Mitt Romney's trip abroad went much better than the London leg, and while he didn't offer much foreign policy details, we did learn something about how Romney sees the world.

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The Israel leg of Mitt Romney's trip abroad went much better than the London leg, and while he didn't offer much foreign policy details, we did learn something about how Romney sees the world. Romney gave a speech in Jerusalem and then held multiple fundraisers, one including mega-donor Sheldon Adelson. Here's what we learned:

He won't say if we'll bomb Iran, but he will say it's okay if Israel goes ahead...

Romney's senior foreign policy aide told reporters that the candidate would back an Israeli military strike on Iran's nuclear facilities. "If Israel has to take action on its own,” Senor said, “the governor would respect that decision." That's an important difference from what the Obama administration says,  The New York Times' Jodi Rudoren and Ashley Parker explain:

While the Obama administration typically talks about stopping Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, Mr. Romney adopted the language of Israel’s leaders, who say Tehran must be prevented from even having the capability to develop one.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said after Romney's speech, "Mitt, I couldn’t agree with you more." He said sanctions had not worked.

… Maybe.

Romney wasn't quite so clear when ABC News' David Muir asked him if he'd back a strike. Romney said, "I think I've said what I wanted to say on that front which is I respect the right of Israel to defend itself and America always on the side of Israel but I'm not going to be more specific than that..."

He's reinforcing his alliance with the religious right.

The make up of the crowd sent a message, according to Ha'aretz's Barak Ravid. "Romney's staff picked the 150 guests carefully. Religious American immigrants dominated the crowd; secular Jews and native-born Israelis were few and far between," Ravid writes.

But it's not just religious Jews Romney is trying to win over, George Will argued on ABC News' This Week. "In Israel he's courting not the Jewish vote in this country" -- they're Democrats mostly, Will said. "The great support for israel right now, the energy, is in the evangelical community, which is part of the Republican base. So the trip to Israel is a way to fire up this enormously important -- and somewhat skeptical of Mitt Romney -- Republican base."

He's tight with Netanyahu.

Netanyahu's staff helped organize Romney's event, Ha'aretz reports. "The speech itself sounded as if it could have been written by Netanyahu's bureau," the newspaper said. Senor worked with Netanyahu's adviser, Ron Dermer, to plan the trip to Israel.

He's still not a thrilling speaker.

Ha'aretz gives Romney's speaking style a poor review:

"Romney read his speech from two teleprompters that were placed opposite the stage, but compared to Obama, Romney seemed gray and uncharismatic. Even from this hand-picked, extremely friendly audience, he wasn't able to extract thunderous applause."

He thinks Israelis are culturally superior to Palestinians.

At a fundraiser Monday, Romney told donors at a breakfast fundraiser at the King David Hotel that "culture makes a difference" in explaining the relative wealth of Israel to the poverty of Palestinians, the Associated Press's Kasie Hunt reports.

"As you come here and you see the GDP per capita, for instance, in Israel which is about $21,000 dollars, and compare that with the GDP per capita just across the areas managed by the Palestinian Authority, which is more like $10,000 per capita, you notice such a dramatically stark difference in economic vitality."

Saeb Erekat, a senior aide to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, told Hunt that Romney's comment was "racist." We'd note that in addition to disparaging Palestinians, the comment would also seem to play into the another old, hateful stereotype, the one about Jews and money.

When he gets bad press, his campaign freaks out, then calms down.

After a couple days of terrible press over his London trip -- British papers were mad Romney doubted their readiness for the Olympics -- his campaign closed his fundraiser with Sheldon Adelson to the press. Romney had had an agreement with reporters since April that they'd get to cover all fundraisers in public places, and reporters freaked out on Twitter. The campaign reversed itself. The result was Adelson making funny but not offensive jokes about sandwiches on the record.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.