BY REBECCA STOIL AND JPOST STAFF—
Both US Republican presidential front-runners slammed US President Barack Obama’s policy on Israel Tuesday morning, days before the expected United Nations vote on Palestinian statehood. Texas Governor Rick Perry and former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney blamed Obama for the upcoming UN vote, even though the US delegation was expected to veto the Palestinian initiative in the Security Council.
Speaking at a Likud supporters’ rally in New York City, Perry said that he was “indignant of the Obama administration and their Middle East policy of appeasement that has encouraged such an ominous act of bad faith. Simply put, we would not be here today at this very precipice of such a dangerous move if the Obama policy in the Middle East was not naive and arrogant, misguided and dangerous.”
Perry blasted what he described as “the Obama policy of moral equal which gives equal standing to the grievances of Israelis and Palestinians including the orchestrators of terrorism,” describing it as “a very dangerous insult.”
“There is no middle ground between our allies and those who seek their destruction,” Perry told the Likud supporters. “America should not be ambivalent between the terrorist tactics of Hamas and the security tactics of the legitimate and free state of Israel.”
In advance of the speech, Perry’s closest rival, Romney, called on the US to cut aid to the Palestinians, and also blamed Obama for causing the current “diplomatic crisis” at the UN.
Romney said that he believes the US should “cut foreign assistance to the Palestinians, as well as re-evaluate its funding of UN programs and its relationship with any nation voting in favor of recognition” for Palestinians at the UN. He added that the Palestinian petition at the UN is the “culmination” of the president’s policies, which have shown disregard for the Israeli position.
Obama, said Romney, has made “repeated efforts over three years to throw Israel under the bus and undermine its negotiating position,” and that Obama must “reaffirm the United States’ commitment to the security of Israel and its continued existence as a Jewish state” during his speech at the UN this week.
Romney insisted that Obama should declare the US will cut funding to the Palestinian Authority – $500 million annually in aid – and reevaluate its relations with any nation that votes in favor of Palestinian state recognition.
The National Jewish Democratic Council quickly responded to Perry’s remarks.
NJDC President and CEO David A. Harris issued a statement claiming that “Perry’s comments today demonstrate that he clearly has little command of the U.S.-Israel relationship and even less interest in preserving the historic bipartisan support for Israel. His baseless attacks on President Barack Obama’s strong record of support for Israel and the actions that the President and his Administration are taking to beat back the Palestinian’s unilateral initiative are nothing more than a deeply disturbing ploy to inject domestic politics into the U.S.-Israel relationship.”
Harris’s complained that “it is long past time for Perry and other Republicans to heed the advice of those genuinely working towards bipartisan support for Israel, and to quit playing political games with support for Israel.”
“It appears that Perry and others like him are not thinking beyond their immediate political concerns,” he said.
Two weeks ago, Perry entered the foreign policy debate surrounding America’s support for Israel in an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal, in which he said that he supported the US utilizing its Security Council veto, but that he believed cutting aid to the Palestinians should be conditional to their willingness to return to negotiations with the Israelis.
Also on Tuesday, a group of fourteen US senators called on Obama to “issue a strongly worded defense of Israel during his address to the United Nations General Assembly on Wednesday,” and said that “political and physical” attacks on Israel threaten Middle East peace and stability.
The senators wrote a letter to the US president, in which they highlighted the recent “troubling” developments in the Middle East, including the storming of the Israeli embassy in Cairo, the anti-Israel rhetoric of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and the unilateral Palestinian decision to head to the UN for state recognition.
“We believe it is imperative for you to speak strongly, forthrightly and publicly about US concerns over these developments,” the senators wrote, adding “we need to make it clear that we will not tolerate continued threats to Israel by governments or individuals in the region or attempts to delegitimize Israel at the UN or other international forums.”
Gil Hoffman contributed to this report.