GOP candidates court Jewish Republicans
December 7th, 2011
06:11 PM ET
11 years ago

GOP candidates court Jewish Republicans

(CNN) – All but one of the Republican presidential candidates made their case to Jewish voters Wednesday, voicing their support for Israel and criticizing Iran while uniformly hitting President Barack Obama's strategy of appeasement on the world stage.

Speaking before the Republican Jewish Coalition in Washington, D.C., the candidates stressed the importance of the United States standing with Israel, something they charged Obama has failed to do in his first years in office.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who has said he will zero out all foreign aid from the United States if elected president, appeared to fully reverse course on the issue during his remarks.

"Strategic defensive aid in all forms will increase to Israel," Perry said, after calling Israel America's strongest ally in the Middle East.

"Israel shares a commitment to our core principles of personal freedom," Perry said. "And yet, President Obama systematically undermines that relationship with Israel, specifically on the question of a negotiated settlement with the Palestinian people."

Perry also suggested recent comments he deemed anti-Israel were the result of the current administration's attitudes.

"This torrent of hostility towards Israel doesn't seem to be coordinated, it doesn't," Perry said. "It seems from my perspective to be a natural expression of this administration's attitude towards Israel."

The long-serving governor referenced recent comments by Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, in which he said Israel needed to "just get back to the damn table" and negotiate with the Palestinians, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's questioning aspects of Israeli democracy and U.S. Ambassador to Belgium Howard Gutman's statement blaming anti-Semitism among Muslims on the failures of Israelis.

The Panetta and Gutman comments in particular were used in lines of attack throughout the speeches Wednesday.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich called Panetta's comments "utterly outrageous."

"Can you imagine if our next door neighbor were firing missiles at us what we'd say 'Oh, could we come to the table?'" Gingrich said. "How about saying to Hamas, give up violence and come to the table. How about saying to the PLA [Palestine Liberation Army], recognize Israel and come to the table. This one sided continuing pressure that says it's always Israel's fault no matter how bad the other side is has to stop."

Gingrich also said he would ask former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton to serve as his secretary of state, only after disparaging current Secretary of State Clinton.

"The fact that Secretary [Hillary] Clinton could talk about discrimination against women in Israel and then meet with Saudis?" he said.

But one of the greatest threats facing Israel and the United States, the candidates agreed, is Iran. They called for tougher sanctions, including on their central bank and stressed the importance of Iran not becoming a nuclear capable country.

"We have to stop them," former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum said of Iran. "The United States will stop Iran from getting a nuclear weapon, period."

Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota equated current Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who has called for Israel to be wiped off the map, to Adolf Hitler.

"Today a mad man is speaking once again and it seems the world isn't really listening, though Iran's president has made his intentions for Israel abundantly clear," Bachmann said.

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney said Ahmadinejad should be "excluded form diplomatic society."

"A nuclear-armed Iran is not only a threat to Israel, it is a threat to the entire world," Romney said. "Our friends must never fear that we will not stand by them in an hour of need. Our enemies should never doubt our resolve."

Six candidates in total addressed the gathering attempting to court the Jewish vote ahead of the next presidential election. Jewish voters supported the Democratic nominees for president by large margins during the last two election cycles, backing then-Sen. Barack Obama over Sen. John McCain by a 78% to 21% margin in 2008 and Sen. John Kerry over then-President George W. Bush by a 74% to 25% margin in 2004, according to CNN exit polling.

And the day's events were also not without the infusion of 2012 presidential politics. Gingrich preemptively challenged Obama to seven three hour-long Lincoln-Douglas style debates if he becomes the GOP nominee. If the president has not accepted his proposal by the Republican convention, he said he will use the White House as his scheduler.

"Wherever the president goes, I will show up four hours later," Gingrich said. "I doubt if they can take the pressure for more than two or three weeks. But if they would rather have me chase him all the way to Election Day and have the country watch a man afraid to defend his own record, I think that will work equally well."

Santorum suggested no one take the advice of Vice President Joe Biden, who he served with in the Senate, especially on issues of world politics. When attempting to determine a world view, Santorum said one should find out "what Joe Biden thinks and take the opposite opinion."

"You will be right 100% of the time, not 99, 100% of the time," he added.

Jon Huntsman, who served as the president's U.S. ambassador to China, said Americans are no longer listening to Obama.

"Nobody's paying attention. It doesn't matter if he puts a small pro-growth proposal on the table, people have tuned out and now they're looking to 2012," Huntsman said at the event.

Rep. Ron Paul of Texas was the only candidate not invited to the gathering because of his views on Israel that the organization calls "extreme."

Paul, who is making his third bid for the White House, said his views were portrayed "unfairly" as anti-Israel and that he intends to explain his positions further on his website.

"It's a private organization, too. So me being very much aware of what private organizations can do, I don't have much recourse," Paul said on CNN's "Newsroom" Wednesday. "But I think in public opinion, people will ask questions, why isn't he included? He doesn't say everything like everybody else but maybe we need a full discussion."

Filed under: 2012 • Republicans
soundoff (32 Responses)
  1. S.B. Stein E.B. NJ

    Some of the ideas are good in theory. In terms of practice, Israel is like in respect for the "rule of law." None of the Arab countries can claim that kind of thing.

    December 7, 2011 08:34 pm at 8:34 pm |
  2. steven harnack

    I don't have words, that are acceptable to the censors anyway, to express my overwhelming contempt for these liars who misrepresent others statements and ascribe intentions that they know perfectly well are false. They make me physically ill.

    December 7, 2011 08:38 pm at 8:38 pm |
  3. John

    Wow Jewish soon they forget that FDR is the one that saved them in Europe....The Republicans were TOTALLY opposed to invading France.....If it was up to the GOP the Jewish people would have ALL died in Mid-Europe.......Thank god for FDR.............and double thank God that we have a president that knows when and when not to pull the trigger....obviously it was the $ that turned some of the greedy Jews to the GOP....they forgot WW II!!!

    December 7, 2011 08:41 pm at 8:41 pm |
  4. Mike

    I will never fully understand our fascination with Israel. I understand we are there allies, but each of the GOP candidates seem to be running for Prime Minister of Israel instead of POTUS. Israel has done nothing to bring peace to the region–and building illegal settlements isn't helping that. If the Israelis were ever serious about peace, they would cease that (and maybe stop sending agents to assassinate members of foreign governments in the Middle East). If they want to be terrorists in their region, let them do it on their dime.

    December 7, 2011 08:42 pm at 8:42 pm |
  5. Grant

    The Republican clown show continues!!

    December 7, 2011 08:43 pm at 8:43 pm |
  6. Johnson

    Romney should remind them that the Messiah will return via St. Louis, Missouri according to joe Smith.

    December 7, 2011 08:48 pm at 8:48 pm |
  7. E

    Thats just like Jews to use their influence in news, and everything else to buy off all the blinded voters black and white because they think their influence in world affairs is ending which it needs to be. Americans really need to wake up and see whats going on in front of them. Ron Paul shouldn't care about what they think they hate him because he is right.

    Don't give up Ron Paul 2012

    December 7, 2011 08:48 pm at 8:48 pm |
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