Romney Affirms Jerusalem as Israel's Capital

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JERUSALEM, Israel -- Iran took center stage during the short visit of presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney to Israel on Sunday.

Against the backdrop of Jerusalem's Old City, Romney delighted a VIP audience by appearing to take a clear position on a longstanding international controversy: He confirmed that Jerusalem is Israel's capital -- something the White House press secretary recently refused to do.

"It's a deeply moving experience to be in Jerusalem, the capital of Israel," Romney said to resounding applause.

Israel considers all of Jerusalem to be its eternal capital, but Palestinians want part of the city for the capital of a future state. No country, including the United States, has its embassy in Jerusalem.

And the former Massachusetts governor also sent a clear signal on Iran's nuclear program: "My message to the people of Israel and the leaders of Iran is one and the same. We will not look away, nor will my country ever look away from our passion and commitment to Israel."

Romney said preventing Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons should be America's top national security priority.

"It is our fervent hope that diplomatic and economic measures will do so in the final hour. But of course no option should be excluded. We recognize Israel's right to defend itself and expect America to stand with you," he said.

Romney's speech followed a day of meetings with Israeli leaders and Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad.

Jerusalem Post diplomatic correspondent Herb Keinon said Romney's visit was first about his campaign but also about hearing what Israelis had to say.

"He wants to come here and he wants to both speak with and be seen speaking with the leaders to get their take on the major issues in the region, which is obviously Egypt, Syria and Iran," Keinon told CBN News.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Romney that sanctions and diplomacy hadn't stopped Iran and that's why a strong and credible military threat is also needed.

"You said that the greatest danger facing the world is of the Ayatollah regime possessing nuclear weapons capability. Mitt, I couldn't agree with you more," Netanyahu said.

Romney responded, "Your perspectives with regard to Iran and its effort to become a nuclear-capable nation are ones that I take with great seriousness."

Keinon said Israelis don't know much about Romney, but they're hoping the next American president will have a heart connection to Israel like former presidents Clinton and Bush did.

"They want a president who not only sees Israel as an ally, like Taiwan and New Zealand, but actually has something special in his kishkes (guts), has a certain soft feeling in his heart for Israel," Keinon said. "Many Israelis, I don't think, have been convinced that Obama has that."

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CBN News
Julie Stahl and John Waage

Julie Stahl and John Waage

CBN News Jerusalem Bureau

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