Romney says he would ‘respect the right of Israel to defend itself’

Mitt Romney on Sunday gingerly took a step back from the comments of one of his top foreign policy advisers, who said the presumptive Republican nominee would “respect” a decision by Israel to launch a unilateral military strike against Iran.

“I’ll use my own words, and that is I respect the right of Israel to defend itself, and we stand with Israel,” Romney said in Israel, during an interview on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”

Earlier Sunday, Romney adviser Dan Senor was a bit more expansive on the delicate question of whether the U.S. would support a move by Israel to act militarily to halt Iran’s progress toward achieving nuclear weapons capability. 

"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 said in a briefing, according to several media reports.

As he has repeatedly done during his foreign trip, Romney declined to directly criticize President Obama or articulate a foreign policy that deviates from the current administration, saying he would not do so while on foreign soil. While in the United States, Romney has sharply denounced the president’s foreign policy and his relationship with Israel.

Romney on Sunday said preventing a nuclear-armed Iran should be the nation’s “first priority.”

Appearing on CBS after Romney, Democratic Party chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz said the two statements from Romney and Senor were “emblematic” of a foreign trip that has gone awry for the GOP standard-bearer.

“I think he’s demonstrated pretty repeatedly since he’s been out of the country that he lacks the experience, he lacks the preparation and the diplomatic skills to be able to be commander in chief, to be the President of the United States,” Wasserman Schultz said, ticking off a list of Romney missteps during his first stop in London for the Olympics.

Romney was forced to backtrack after his comments suggesting that London would not be prepared to host the games received sharp criticism from British Prime Minister David Cameron and London Mayor Boris Johnson.