Romney talks Iran, Medicare in call with rabbis

Romney talks Iran, Medicare in call with rabbis

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney assured Jewish supporters he would tighten sanctions against Iran, encourage rebellion among its citizens, and seek to have Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad indicted “under the Genocide Convention for incitation to genocide.”

Romney spoke to an unspecified number of listeners Sept. 20 on a 15-minute conference call arranged by his campaign. The former Massachusetts governor said he agreed with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu about the need to establish a “red line” for military action over Iran’s nuclear “capability.”

“For me it is unacceptable to have Iran have the capability of building a nuclear weapon, which they could use in the Middle East or elsewhere,” he said. “For me the red line is nuclear capability.”

Analysts have pointed out that “capability” is distinct from President Barack Obama’s stated policy, which is to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.

Several minutes later, Romney added, “I guess where those red lines are, I wouldn’t want to go into great detail.”

Romney also called for American support of “voices of dissent and freedom and democracy inside Iran. When demonstrators take to the streets in places like Tehran, Americans should be with them.”

He added: “Ahmadinejad and the diplomats in Iran should be treated like the pariah they are anywhere they go in the world. They should be treated the same way we treated South Africa during apartheid.”

Romney was subtly critical of the Obama administration’s public differences with Netanyahu’s policies on such areas as West Bank settlement-building.

“If perchance there are disagreements…we keep those disagreements to ourselves and in private,” said Romney. Airing them in public “communicates to those who don’t understand us terribly well that…we don’t have a common vision and a common purpose.”

Responding to a question about Medicare, he said his plan would not affect Americans 55 and over, and would offer “greater choices to those under that age.”

Romney said his plan “for the next generation” would ensure that “Medicare benefits are higher for lower-income and middle-income people than they are for higher-income people. In my view, higher-income people should not get as much support from Medicare as do the people who rely upon it — those of modest incomes.”

Among those invited to participate in the call were such organizations as the Orthodox Union, the Orthodox Rabbinical Council of America, the Conservative movement’s Rabbinical Assembly, and the Reform movement’s Central Conference of American Rabbis.

One disappointed listener was Rabbi Bernhard Rosenberg of Congregation Beth-El in Edison, who has been pressing for the formation of a Rabbis for Romney group to counter the Rabbis for Obama list announced earlier this month.

Obama conducted his own conference call with some 1,200 rabbis on Sept. 14. Grant Starrett, coalitions coordinator for Romney for President, declined to say how many participated in Romney’s call.

“I think Romney felt he had to do the same thing Obama did,” said Rosenberg. “Both of them were courtesy calls to the Jewish community around the High Holy Days. I think both of them didn’t shed any new light on any issues. They were just political in nature and left the feeling they should communicate with the Jewish community. There was no insight, and it wasn’t expected.”

The New York Region of the Republican Jewish Coalition will host phone banks each week in the area from now until the election. The first will be held Thursday, Sept. 27, 6:30-8:30 p.m. at the North Brunswick home of David and Claire Rosenthal.

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