Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney has said he will do “the opposite” of Barack Obama when it comes to Israel, returning to a line of attack that seeks to portray the president as no friend to America’s traditional Middle East ally.
Speaking via videolink to religious conservatives attending the Faith and Freedom Coalition in Washington DC, Romney accused Obama of being more concerned about Israel attacking Iran than Tehran obtaining a nuclear weapon.
“I think, by and large, you can just look at the things the president has done and do the opposite,” the Republican presidential nominee said in regards to Middle East policy.
The comments mark the first time that Romney has discussed policy towards Israel since the White House race began in earnest, and could indicate a line of attack for the Republicans going forward.
Speaking just days before a crucial round of talks with Iran over its nuclear programme, Romney hit out at the White House for a perceived weak stance on the issue.
“He’s almost sounded like he’s more frightened that Israel might take military action than he’s concerned that Iran might become nuclear,” Romney said.
The attack on Obama’s policy towards Israel is seen by many in Republican ranks as a possible vote winner in the run up to November’s election.
During the primary race, a succession of conservative candidates ought to make political mileage out of the issue.
Romney himself accused the president of “repeated efforts over three years to throw Israel under the bus”.
Other senior Republicans have gone as far as accusing Obama of “appeasing” terrorists in his handling of stalled talks over Palestinian.
Pro-Israeli lobby groups have accused the White House of hardening its stance towards Israel.
They point towards demands by Obama that illegal settlement building activity in the West Bank be frozen as a condition of restarting negotiations.
Moreover, many within America’s Jewish community have attacked the administration’s position that talks between the Palestinians and Israeli government should take the 1967 border as a starting point.
Such criticisms could be damaging to the president during an election year, with Republican strategists hoping that painting Obama as, at best, a lukewarm friend to Israel may result in a larger percentage of the Jewish vote going their way.
But Democrats have accused Romney of distorting Obama’s record on Israel.
Spokesman Ben LaBolt said Obama has given Israel more security assistance than any other administration and has stood with Israel at the United Nations.