Jerusalem, July 29 – U.S. presidential candidate Mitt Romney was briefed Sunday by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the start of a day of meetings with Israeli and Palestinian leaders.
“We’re going to discuss all these issues and the turbulent region that the Middle East has now become,” Netanyahu said as we welcomed Romney to his office. “I want you to know that in this great convulsion there is one stable democratic ally of the United States here in the Middle East, and that is Israel.”
“We have a relationship between our nations, which spans many years and at the same time is one based not just on mutual interest but also on shared values,” Romney replied. “Like Israel, we share a commitment to democracy, to freedom of speech, to freedom of association, to the preservation of human rights. And these common values and common principles have caused the nations to draw closer over the years.”
The two spoke of the Iranian nuclear threat as Iran continues to defy the world community and rejects repeated United Nations resolutions demanding it open its nuclear program to international inspection. The International Atomic Energy Agency concluded Iran was taking steps that could only be for the development of nuclear weapons, and Iranian leaders have constantly stated their goal is to destroy Israel.
Romney is also scheduled to meet with Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad. The Palestinians have refused continual calls by Israel and the international community to return to peace negotiations without pre-conditions. Palestinian leaders have threatened to bypass peace talks and make another attempt to get the U.N. to recognize them as a state. Such a move would sidestep the need to make difficult decisions for compromise on the problematic and controversial core issues such as refugee status, borders and Jerusalem, allowing the Palestinians to prolong the conflict.
Romney and Netanyahu both mentioned the different Arab uprisings in the region, as intensive fighting rages in embattled neighboring Syria less than 150 miles from the meetings in Jerusalem. Syrian President Bashar Assad is holding on to power, suppressing the opposition with a military crackdown against democratic reforms that so far has left more than 10,000 people dead, mostly civilians.
On Israel’s southern border, newly elected Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi from the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood party is consolidating his new administration, faced with the importance of preserving Egypt’s peace treaty with Israel while combating the rising presence of terrorist groups in the Sinai Peninsula. Terrorist attacks against Israel from the Egyptian territory are on the rise as illegal arms smuggling continues to terrorist groups that have infiltrated to the Sinai.