(Ethan Miller, Getty Images )
Reporting from Washington — President Obama "has thrown Israel under the bus," potential rival Mitt Romney said in a statement responding to the president's speech on Middle East policy Thursday
The former Massachusetts governor criticizes Obama for endorsing a call for Israel to withdraw to borders that were in place before the 1967 war in the interests of achieving peace.
"He has disrespected Israel and undermined its ability to negotiate peace," Romney said. "He has also violated a first principle of American foreign policy, which is to stand firm by our friends."
Romney was the first Republican presidential hopeful to comment on Obama's speech. Unlike past campaigns, the field of presidential challengers has no clear foreign policy heavyweight, though Obama's own former ambassador to China, Jon Huntsman, has begun testing the waters.
Romney visited Israel in January, part of a foreign trip that included stops in Afghanistan and Jordan. He met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Netanyahu's office also responded sternly to Obama's remarks, saying a call to withdraw to 1967 lines "indefensible." Netanyahu meets with Obama at the White House on Friday.
Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, another Republican seeking to challenge Obama, later reacted more broadly to the policy Obama outlined for the region.
"No speech can make up for the lost time and opportunity President Obama has squandered," he said. "The current administration needs to come to terms with its confused and dangerous foreign policy soon, as clarity and security are the necessary conditions of any serious and coherent American set of policies."