Romney stresses Israel ties

Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney pauses Sunday as he visits the Western Wall in Jerusalem.

JERUSALEM — Standing on Israeli soil, U.S. presidential candidate Mitt Romney on Sunday declared Jerusalem to be the capital of the Jewish state and said the United States has “a solemn duty and a moral imperative” to block Iran from achieving nuclear weapons capability.

“Make no mistake, the ayatollahs in Iran are testing our moral defenses. They want to know who will object and who will look the other way,” he said. “We will not look away nor will our country ever look away from our passion and commitment to Israel.”

The presidential election hovered over the speech. The Old City formed a made-for-television backdrop behind Romney, while some of his campaign donors listened in the audience.

Romney’s declaration that Jerusalem is Israel’s capital was matter-of-fact and in keeping with claims made by Israeli governments for decades, even though the United States, like other nations, maintains its embassy in Tel Aviv.

He did not say if he would order the embassy moved if he wins the White House, but strongly suggested so in a CNN interview. “My understanding is the policy of our nation has been a desire to move our embassy ultimately to the capital (Jerusalem),” he said, adding, “I would only want to do so and to select the timing in accordance with the government of Israel.”

His remarks on the subject during his speech drew a standing ovation from his audience, which included Sheldon Adelson, the American businessman who has said he will donate millions to help elect Romney to the White House.

Romney’s embrace of Israel was on display throughout the day when he met with Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu and other leaders. He also visited the Western Wall, Judaism’s holiest site, where he was mobbed by worshippers. In addition, Romney met with Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad.