Romney's Israel visit divides regional media

Mitt Romney waves at a camera by the Wailing wall Mitt Romney said the US had a "moral imperative" to stop Iran from developing nuclear weapons

Newspapers in the Middle East disagree on whose interests were best served by the visit to Israel by the Republican US presidential candidate, Mitt Romney.

His stance on Iran proves particularly divisive, with an Israeli daily backing it wholeheartedly and a pan-Arab daily expressing fears for Americans as well as people in the region.

In Iran itself, Mr Romney's reference to Jerusalem as Israel's "capital" arouses as much attention as his comments on Iran's nuclear programme.

Israeli press

Boaz Bismuth in the free daily newspaper Israel Hayom is pleased with the way the visit went. Noting that "the road to the White House passes through Jerusalem", he approves of remarks in which Mr Romney's senior foreign policy advisor, Dan Senor, said the Republican candidate would respect an Israeli decision to act against Iran should the need arise. "An Israeli prime minister could not have put it better," he writes.

Nahum Barnea in the centrist, mass circulation Yedioth Ahronoth says there is "nothing bad" about Mr Romney embarking on a similar photo round to that undertaken by Barack Obama before he was elected. However, he voices concerns over the arrival of Republican supporters on the occasion of the visit, such as business magnate Sheldon Adelson. "Our problem is that the use this man is making of us for objectives that have nothing to do with the genuine interests of the country," he says.

Writing on the same daily's English-language website, David Ha'ivri says he would like Mr Romney to win in November. But he adds that the timing of his visit is "as close to an insult to our dignity as could be conceived" since it coincides with the anniversary of the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem, "the saddest day in our yearly cycle".

An editorial in the liberal daily Haaretz warns the government against backing any particular candidate. The paper argues that, if elected, Mr Romney would probably follow previous Republican presidents in putting US interests first. "Therefore, Netanyahu must serve Israel's interests by refraining from crude intervention in the American election campaign," it adds.

Arab press

Writing in the Ramallah-based, pro-Fatah Palestinian newspaper al-Ayyam, Adil Abdul Rahman sees nothing good in the fact that "the US-pilgrimage-to-Israel season has started". "It shows to everyone that the Israeli issue is in fact a domestic one and the United States can never compromise over it," he writes. Despite vital US interests in Arab countries, "neither US administrations nor candidates are interested in the interests of the Arabs and Palestinians", he laments.

An editorial in the pan-Arab newspaper, al-Quds al-Arabi, is dismayed by Mitt Romney's comments on Iran. "Romney will win the largest number of Jewish votes after getting close to Israeli leaders by yielding to their script, but the biggest loser will be the American people and the people of the region if he wins and implements his promises to attack Iran," the paper says.

An editorial in Qatar's al-Rayah agrees that remarks made by the Republican candidate during his visit are "detrimental to the interests of the United States and also detrimental to peace, security and stability in the region". "Seeking to win the White House should not be at the expense of the Palestinian people and their national rights or peace in the region," it argues.

Iranian media

Iranian media focus not just on Mitt Romney's remarks on the county's nuclear programme but also on his reference to Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Israel claims the entire city but the Palestinians want the eastern part of Jerusalem to be the capital of a future Palestinian state.

Iranian state radioo said the Republican candidate had praised the "occupiers" and that, like Mr Obama, he had accused Iran of seeking to develop nuclear weapons.

In the press, the moderate paper Mardom Salari reports Mitt Romney's visit to Israel under the headline "Republican cowboy's efforts for a few more dollars".

The hardline daily, Keyhan, carries an editorial by Hesameddin Borumand, who comments in general terms on recent US and Israeli remarks on a "probable attack" on Iran. The paper dismisses these as a "psychological operation" since "undoubtedly the Zionist regime is not in a condition to prepare for war against the Islamic Republic of Iran".

BBC Monitoring selects and translates news from radio, television, press, news agencies and the internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages. It is based in Caversham, UK, and has several bureaux abroad. For more reports from BBC Monitoring, click here

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