WASHINGTON--GOP presidential hopeful Texas Gov. Rick Perry traveled to Manhattan to hit President Obama on Israel Tuesday, saying "It is time to change our policy of appeasement toward the Palestinians."
Perry's press conference was timed to Obama being in New York for the United Nations General Assembly, where the U.S. and Israel are working to head off a Palestinian statehood vote. Obama addresses the UN on Wednesday.
Perry's embrace of Israel comes as part of his Christian Evangelical perspective. Mitt Romney, another 2012 GOP rival accused Obama of throwing Israel under a bus. While Perry and Romney may have a disagreement on Obama's tactics and strategy--to suggest that Obama does not support Israel does not square with the facts.
American presidents have supported Israel since the state was founded in 1948. The focus on Israel comes as polls show Obama's support among the U.S. Jewish community--a bedrock of support in 2008--is declining. Perry's attack comes in the wake of a GOP victory--in a special election--of a House seat in a heavily Jewish Democratic district formerly held by Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY).
Meanwhille, members of Congress are weighing whether to continue funding for the Palestinian Authority if the UN Palestinian bid is successful.
Excerpts from Perry press conference: "Today, neither adversaries nor allies know where America stands. Our muddle of a foreign policy has created greater uncertainty in the midst of this Arab Spring. And our policy of isolating and undermining Israel has only encouraged our adversaries in their aggressiveness.
"And with this end run of the Palestinian statehood imminent before the U.N., America must act swiftly. First, every nation within the U.N. must know America stands with Israel - -- and that we stand with the Oslo principle of direct negotiations without equivocation.
"Second, America must make it clear of -- that declaration on Palestinian statehood in violation of the spirit of the Oslo Accords and that they could jeopardize our funding of U.N. operations.
"And thirdly, the Palestinians must know that their gambit comes at a cost and certainly has consequences, in particular that America will have to reconsider the $4 billion in assistance we have provided the Palestinians in the last 17 years.
And lastly, we must close the PLO office in Washington" if the U.N. grants statehood.
"...Israel is our friend. Israel is our ally. I traveled there a number of times, met with the leaders. It's not a perfect nation, but its existence is critical to America's security in the world.
"It is time to change our policy of appeasement toward the Palestinians, to strengthen our ties with the nation of Israel, in the process establish a robust American position in the Middle East characterized by a new firmness and a new resolve.
"If America does not head off the aggression of forces hostile to Israel, we will only embolden them. That would be a tragic mistake."
OBAMA AND ISRAEL
Below, from the Democratic National Committee....
Obama Administration Has Already Implemented Policies That Rick Perry and Mitt Romney Call Loudly For On Israel
Mitt Romney Claims That President Obama Has Tried To "Throw Israel Under The Bus And Undermine Its Negotiating Position"
President Obama Believes Our Commitment To Israel's Security Is Ironclad. "The bonds between the United States and Israel are unbreakable and the commitment of the United States to the security of Israel is ironclad...Because we understand the challenges Israel faces, I and my administration have made the security of Israel a priority. It's why we've increased cooperation between our militaries to unprecedented levels. It's why we're making our most advanced technologies available to our Israeli allies. It's why, despite tough fiscal times, we've increased foreign military financing to record levels." [President Obama, 05/22/11]
President Obama Has Long Believed That Any Peace Agreement Must Be Based On Borders And Security Arrangements That Do Not Leave Israel Vulnerable. "As for security, every state has the right to self-defense, and Israel must be able to defend itself -- by itself -- against any threat. Provisions must also be robust enough to prevent a resurgence of terrorism, to stop the infiltration of weapons, and to provide effective border security. And a full and phased withdrawal of Israeli military forces should be coordinated with the assumption of Palestinian security responsibility in a sovereign and non-militarized state. And the duration of this transition period must be agreed, and the effectiveness of security arrangements must be demonstrated." [President Obama, 05/22/11]
President Obama Has Been Very Clear That He Believes Israel Must Remain A Jewish State. "The ultimate goal is two states for two people: Israel as a Jewish state and the homeland for the Jewish people -- and the State of Palestine as the homeland for the Palestinian people -- each state in joined self-determination, mutual recognition, and peace." [President Obama, 05/22/11]
Rick Perry Claims President Obama Has Tried To "Isolate" Israel.
President Obama And Prime Minister Netanyahu Have Met Seven Times Since Netanyahu Took Office. "Appearing together before the cameras Friday, President Obama described Netanyahu's seventh visit during his presidency as and 'indication of the extraordinary bond between our two countries.'" [PBS, 05/20/2011]
When Asked About The Obama Administration, Defense Minister Barak Said He "Can Hardly Remember A Period Of Better Support." "Our countries are good friends. And I'm the minister of defense, I can tell you that I can hardly remember ... a better period of support, American support and cooperation and similar strategic understanding of events around us than what we have right now." [Fox News, 08/04/11]
When Israel's Embassy In Cairo Was Attacked By Protestors, President Obama Called On Egypt To Protect The Embassy And Offered His Support To Prime Minister Netanyahu. "I would like to express my gratitude to the President of the United States, Barack Obama. I asked for his help. This was a decisive and fateful moment. He said, 'I will do everything I can.' And so he did. He used every considerable means and influence of the United States to help us. We owe him a special measure of gratitude. This attests to the strong alliance between Israel and the United States." [Prime Minister Netanyahu, 09/10/11]
Rick Perry Claims President Obama Has Encouraged The Palestinians To "Shun Direct Talks"
The Obama Administration Is Urging A Peace Settlement Through Direct Negotiations Between Israel and the Palestinians. "The only way of getting a lasting solution is through direct negotiations through the parties and the route to that lies in Jerusalem and Ramallah not in New York. So instead, we are redoubling our efforts with not only both sides but with a broad cross-section of the international community to create a sustainable platform for negotiations that can produce the two state solution that we seek." [The Telegraph, 09/13/11]
President Obama Has Firmly Stated His Opposition To The Palestinians Unilaterally Seeking Statehood Through The United Nations. "'If this came to the Security Council we would object very strongly, precisely because we think it would be counterproductive...We don't think that it would actually lead to the outcome that we want, which is a two-state solution,' he told Spanish-language media in an interview...' What we've said is that going to the UN is a distraction, does not solve the problem.'" [Haaretz, 09/13/11]
Rick Perry Claims That President Obama Has Weakened Israel's Negotiating Position By "[Suggesting] The 1967 Border Should Be The Starter Point For Israel-Palestinian Negotiations" and Criticizing Israel's Settlement Expansion.
President Obama Believes Israel's Borders Should Account For Changes That Have Taken Place Over The Last 44 Years.. "The parties themselves -- Israelis and Palestinians -- will negotiate a border that is different than the one that existed on June 4, 1967... It is a well-known formula to all who have worked on this issue for a generation. It allows the parties themselves to account for the changes that have taken place over the last 44 years." [President Obama, 5/22/11]
President Obama's Position Is Consistent With Every President And Secretary Of State Since The 2000 Camp David Negotiations. "President Obama's speeches formalize into official US policy the working assumption of every U.S. president and secretary of state since the 2000 Camp David negotiations, as well as former Israeli Prime Ministers Ehud Olmert and Ehud Barak, Israel's most decorated soldier." [Wall Street Journal, 5/23/11]
Every President Since Lyndon Jonson Has Opposed Construction Of New Israeli Settlements In Territories Captured By Israel In 1967. "Every president since Lyndon Johnson - Republican and Democrat alike - has opposed Israeli settlement construction in the territories captured by Israel in 1967 exactly because it made a land-for-peace agreement all the more difficult to achieve. And every president for decades has enjoyed bi-partisan consensus for the United States' unwavering commitment to Israel's security, and support for its pursuit of lasting peace." [Jerusalem Post, 5/22/11]
Rick Perry Claims The Obama Administration Tried To Weaken Israel's Position At The United Nations
President Obama Used The First Security Council Veto Of His Presidency To Stop Condemnation Of Israeli Settlements. "Despite strong international pressure, President Obama vetoed the 2010 Security Council resolution condemning Israel for settlement construction - making the US the only country on the 15-member Security Council not to support the resolution." [Washington Post, 02/18/11]
The Obama administration lobbied heavily against the Goldstone report advancing beyond the Human Rights Council. "Rice told lawmakers the United States repudiated the Goldstone report as 'deeply flawed' when it first emerged. 'We see no need ... for the Goldstone report to be considered and now that its principal author has said what he said, frankly, our view is reinforced that this should go away and that's what we'll work to do,' she said." [Reuters, 4/6/11]
Ø The Obama administration condemned the Goldstone report on the Gaza conflict as "unbalanced, one-sided and basically unacceptable." "But she said [the United State] has long had 'very serious concerns' about the mandate he received from the Human Rights Council, calling it "unbalanced, one-sided and basically unacceptable." [Washington Post, 9/18/09]
The Obama administration expressed solidarity with Israel in the aftermath of the Gaza flotilla incident, working behind the scenes to have a more balanced statement by the UN Security Council that included embracing Israel's own independent inquiry into the raid. "The White House on Sunday backed Israel's inquiry into its deadly raid last month on a flotilla trying to break a blockade against Gaza, saying the independent public commission is 'an important step forward.' Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said Israel's panel can meet the standard of a 'prompt, impartial, credible and transparent investigation.'" [Fox News, 6/13/10]
Rick Perry Claimed That President Obama Has "A Policy Of Moral Equivalency" Between Israel And Hamas
President Obama Has Called Hamas-Fatah Unity An "Enormous Obstacle To Peace And Said That Israel Should Not Be Expected To Negotiate With Parties That Do Not Recognize Its Right To Exist. "The recent agreement between Fatah and Hamas poses an enormous obstacle to peace. No country can be expected to negotiate with a terrorist organization sworn to its destruction. And we will continue to demand that Hamas accept the basic responsibilities of peace, including recognizing Israel's right to exist and rejecting violence and adhering to all existing agreements. And we once again call on Hamas to release Gilad Shalit, who has been kept from his family for five long years." [President Obama, 5/22/11]
The President has spoken out forcefully on numerous occasions to condemn Hamas:
Cairo Speech, 2009: "It is a sign neither of courage nor power to shoot rockets at sleeping children, or to blow up old women on a bus. That's not how moral authority is claimed; that's how it is surrendered.... To play a role in fulfilling Palestinian aspirations, to unify the Palestinian people, Hamas must put an end to violence, recognize past agreements, recognize Israel's right to exist." [President Obama, 6/4/09]
United Nations, 2010: "The slaughter of innocent Israelis is not resistance--it's injustice." [President Obama, 9/22/10]
State Department speech, May, 2011: "Palestinian leaders will not achieve peace or prosperity if Hamas insists on a path of terror and rejection. And Palestinians will never realize their independence by denying the right of Israel to exist. " [President Obama, 5/19/11]
AIPAC, 2011: "No country can be expected to negotiate with a terrorist organization sworn to its destruction. And we will continue to demand that Hamas accept the basic responsibilities of peace, including recognizing Israel's right to exist and rejecting violence and adhering to all existing agreements." [President Obama, 5/22/11]
Rick Perry Questioned President Obama's Commitment To Preventing Iran From Acquiring Nuclear Weapons And Keeping The Pressure On The Syrian Regime.
With President Obama's Leadership, The United States Gained The Support Of Russia, China And Other Nations To Pass United Nations Security Council Resolution 1929, Creating The Most Comprehensive And Biting International Sanctions Regime The Iranian Government Has Ever Faced. "The U.N. Security Council passed a new round of sanctions against Iran today for its failure to comply with previous resolutions demanding Tehran halt its nuclear enrichment program. The new measures build on previous sanctions and pave the way for European countries to take their own punitive steps." [ABC News, 6/9/10]
In Addition To Multilateral Sanctions, President Obama Worked With Congress To Pass The Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, And Divestment Act, Which Strengthens Existing U.S. Sanctions And Makes It Harder For The Iranian Government To Buy Refined Petroleum And The Goods It Needs To Modernize Its Oil And Gas Sector. "The Senate and House in quick succession approved the penalties that focus on Iran's powerful Revolutionary Guard and the country's imports of gas and other refined energy products..." [Associated Press, 6/24/10]
Ø Already Close To $60 Billion In Energy-Related Projects In Iran Have Been Put On Hold Or Discontinued. "According to reliable estimates, Iran may be losing as much as $50 billion to $60 billion overall in potential energy investments, along with the critical technology and know-how that comes with them," Burns said at a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing [Bloomberg, 12/1/10]
Since April, President Obama Has Ratcheted Up The Pressure On The Syrian Regime Through Increasingly Harsh Sanctions. "Since the beginning of Syrian unrest, we have intensely pursued targeted financial measures to increase pressure on the Syrian regime. We have specifically targeted those responsible for human rights abuses, senior officials of the Syrian government, and Syrian businessmen linked to the Syrian regime." [White House Fact Sheet, 08/18/11]
President Obama Has Signed The Strongest Sanctions Placed On the Syrian Regime Thus Far, Freezing Syrian Government Assets, Barring Americans From Doing Business With The Syrian Government And Banning The Import Of Syrian Petroleum. "President Obama signed a new Executive Order taking additional steps pursuant to the national emergency with respect to Syria that blocks the property of the Syrian government, bans U.S. persons from new investments in or exporting services to Syria, and bans U.S. imports of, and other transactions or dealings in, Syrian-origin petroleum or petroleum products. This is the strongest financial action we have taken against the Syrian regime thus far." [White House Fact Sheet, 08/18/11]
President Obama's Ambassador To Syria Has Demonstrated America's Solidarity With The Syrian People. "Ford toured Hama on Thursday in a bid to show solidarity with residents demanding the downfall of the four-decade authoritarian regime amid a bloody security clampdown on the city and fears that Assad's armed enforcers may launch a military assault on the resistance hotbed. 'The fundamental intention was to make absolutely clear with his physical presence that we stand with those Syrians who are expressing their right to speak for change,' said a statement from the U.S. State Department." [LA Times, 07/08/11]
Ø Ambassador Ford's Visit To Hama Electrified The Syrian Opposition. "[Ambassador] Ford made a dramatic visit to the embattled city of Hama to demonstrate the United States' support for peaceful protests and its condemnation of the Syrian government's use of violence. His trip to Hama electrified supporters of the Syrian opposition, and marked a sharp escalation in U.S. efforts to deal with the difficult Syrian stalemate." [Marc Lynch, 07/14/11]
Ø Ambassador Ford Is Drawing Attention To The Syrian Regime's Violent Attacks On Civilians. "Ambassador Robert Ford, now in Syria, is bearing witness to the crimes of the Syrian government. He is traveling to cities where protests are occurring, pulling media coverage that reveals for lies the claims of the Syrian government. He is attending funerals of murdered Syrian anti-government activists, making clear to the Syrian people and people everywhere which side the American government is on in this struggle for power... American diplomatic presence in a country isn't a reward, it's a means of influencing both governments and their publics, of conveying American values, of drawing media attention by our presence and our choices. It can just as easily penalize a government as reward it." [Kori Schake, 09/14/11]