Romney, Obama pledge to isolate Iran, support Israel in AJC questionnaire

WASHINGTON (JTA) — Mitt Romney and President Obama each pledged to keep Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon and to preserve and enhance the U.S.-Israel relationship, in answers to an American Jewish Committee questionnaire.

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“I am prepared to use all elements of American power” to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, Obama said in the questionnaires released Oct. 18 by the AJC, “including a political effort to further isolate Iran, a diplomatic effort to sustain our coalition, an economic effort that has imposed crippling sanctions, and a military effort to be prepared for any contingency.”

Romney echoed: “I will press for ever tightening sanctions on the regime, acting multilaterally where we can and unilaterally where we must, and leave no doubt in the mind of the regime’s leaders that the military option remains on the table.”

Statements on support for Israel were similarly resolute, and Romney delivered a dig at tensions that the Obama and Netanyahu governments had in the first part of Obama’s term, over Israel’s settlement policies.

“Unlike President Obama, I understand that distancing the U.S. from Israel doesn’t earn us credibility in the Arab world or bring peace closer,” Romney said. “Instead, it encourages Palestinians to hold out and wait for Washington to deliver more Israeli concessions.”

The key differences between the contenders were over religious freedom.

Obama touted his mandate delivering contraception coverage to women, including those employed by institutions owned by faith-based groups; Romney describes this as an infringement on religious freedom.

Obama rejected government funding for parochial schools; Romney would not count it out.

The questionnaire elicited from Romney specifics on some of his policies; Democrats and some in the media have criticized him for avoiding specifics.

On foreign policy, Romney said he plans to create “regional directors” who “will possess unified budgetary and policy authority.”

With such powers concentrated in an individual, pro-Israel groups would likely closely watch and want to influence whomever a Romney administration would name to the Middle East post.

Romney also said he would seek to bolster relations with Muslim Americans, a community that has in recent years expressed alienation because of some Homeland Security policies and because of harsh rhetoric, particularly statements seen as anti-Muslim coming from a number of Republican candidates and officials.