As much as the pro-Israel community supports moving the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, reality has often gotten in the way. Both President Clinton and President George W. Bush campaigned on relocating the embassy, and both failed to follow through. Not only has this been a major source of disappointment, it has also burned pro-Israel groups that supported these candidates based on that promise.
Both Michele Bachmann and Newt Gingrich have already vowed to move the embassy to Jerusalem, and their stances – while commendable – have inspired an understandable amount of skepticism.
Mitt Romney, in comparison, is making no promises on two of the most contentious issues within the pro-Israel community: the embassy relocation and the release of convicted Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard. Romney told a group of Jewish leaders he was still undecided on both of these issues during an off-the-record meeting organized by the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, according to the Washington Jewish Week’s Adam Kredo:
On the topic of Pollard, Romney said that he “was open to examining” the issue, but stopped short of saying that he would free the spy from federal prison, the source said.
When asked if he would move the U.S. embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem — a promise that Republican presidential candidates make with ease (but ultimately break once in office) — Romney said that he would “consult with the government of Israel” before he makes a final decision.
“It’s easy for me to promise, but it’s something I would consult with the government [of Israel] on,” Romney said, according to my source.
“He wouldn’t say, ‘I’m going to move it tomorrow,’ ” added the source.
These lines aren’t going to fire up Israel supporters the way Bachmann and Gingrich have, but Romney will likely win some respect for being honest. Obviously the Israeli government needs to be consulted first on the embassy decision. And the Pollard issue is one that has compelling arguments on both sides that need to be carefully examined before a decision is made. These might not be the most exciting answers, but they’re truthful and responsible ones. Romney’s often criticized as a candidate who blindly panders for votes, but he showed a level of restraint here that other candidates have not.