JERUSALEM – Mitt Romney stepped forcefully into a diplomatic stalemate here Sunday by calling on the United States and Israel to use any and all measures to lead the effort to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons.
In a muscular speech delivered from a balcony overlooking the Old City of Jerusalem, Romney said the United States would support Israels efforts to defend itself. But the Republican presidential hopeful stopped short of asserting that he would support a unilateral military strike by Israel against Iran to stop Tehran from obtaining nuclear capability.
We must not delude ourselves into thinking that containment is an option, Romney said. We must lead the effort to prevent Iran from building and possessing nuclear weapons capability. We should employ any and all measures to dissuade the Iranian regime from its nuclear course, and it is our fervent hope that diplomatic and economic measures will do so.
In the final analysis, of course, no option should be excluded, Romney continued. We recognize Israels right to defend itself, and that it is right for America to stand with you.
The presumptive nominee delivered his address after a series of back-to-back meetings with top Israeli and Palestinian officials, network television interviews and a surprise visit to the Western Wall in Jerusalem.
In his speech, Romney declared Jerusalem to be the capital of Israel. The United States does not recognize Jerusalem as the capital; its embassy is in Tel Aviv.
The former Massachusetts governor outlined an aggressive world view in his public statements here Sunday, but he did not offer any new policy specifics. There is little daylight between his policy approach to Iran and the policies President Obama has pursued in office, although Romney used more heated rhetoric to describe the Iranian threat.
It is sometimes said that those who are the most committed to stopping the Iranian regime from securing nuclear weapons are reckless and provocative and inviting war. The opposite is true. We are the true peacemakers, he said.
Romneys speech came hours after one of his senior foreign policy advisers, Dan Senor, told reporters that Romney would support Israels right to launch a unilateral military strike against Iran.
It is an existential threat and we in the West partnering with Israel should do everything we can from stopping Iran from developing that weapons capability, Senor said. And if Israel has to take action on its own, in order to stop Iran from developing that capability, the governor would respect that decision.
Senor cautioned that Romney is not advocating for military action but believes it should be an option.
The Obama administration has urged the Israelis to be patient while international sanctions against Iran are given time to work, but he has assured Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that Israel has the right to act in its own national security interests. Some in the administration fear that an Israeli strike against Iran could ignite a regional war.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak issued a statement Saturday thanking Obama after he signed an act upgrading security ties with Israel, but there was no such declaration by Netanyahu. Obamas step was widely seen as an attempt to parry Romneys visit here.