President Obama’s middle east policy speech was a wide-ranging address that touched on a number of hot-button issues in the world’s most volatile region. But for the Republicans running for president, the speech was about one thing: Obama falling down on the job when it comes to defending the state of Israel.
“President Obama has thrown Israel under the bus,” former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney said in a statement. “He has disrespected Israel and undermined its ability to negotiate peace.”The main bone of contention among the potential candidates and Obama’s speech seems to be the president’s call for the Israeli government and Palestinian leaders to end their strife in deal that would divide the two groups along 1967 borders – a position held, it should be noted, by the previous administrations of George W. Bush and Bill Clinton.
In recent years, Republicans have made full-throated support for Israel a central plank in their foreign policy platform. Criticism of the Israeli state is rare for any American politician and is downright nonexistent among Republicans. The Republicans seeking the presidency turned on Obama for, they said, turning on the nation’s most important mid-east ally.
“To send a signal to the Palestinians that America will increase its demands on our ally Israel, on the heels of the Palestinian Authority’s agreement with the Hamas terrorist organization, is a disaster waiting to happen,” former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty said. “At this time of upheaval in the Middle East, it’s never been more important for America to stand strong for Israel and for a united Jerusalem.”
Rep. Michelle Bachmann (MN) put it succinctly on Twitter.
“Once again, President Obama has betrayed our friend and ally Israel,” she said. “Obama’s call for 1967 borders will cause chaos, division & more aggression in Middle East & put Israel at further risk.”
Bachmann later posted a longer response along the same lines on her congressional website.
Former Godfather’s Pizza CEO Hermain Cain said that America “must be mindful that Israel remains our steadfast ally.”
“Policy and resolutions that would upset the delicate balance in the region should be weighed and measured against the overall safety of everyone in the region and not appease those who seek to deceive and manipulate the process,” Cain said.
Former Sen. Rick Santorum (PA), who’s tried to make foreign policy credentials a highlight of his campaign, took the rare step of criticizing Obama’s speech beyond its mention of Israel.
Santorum called out Obama’s speech for “incoherence and inconsistency” on mideast policy he said has “allowed dictators like Ahmadinejad and Gaddafi to remain in power, while fostering the overthrow of our allies in Egypt.”
“The fact that the President took 6 months to simply say that our policy is to oppose violence, support universal rights, and support reform epitomizes the sad state of American diplomacy,” Santorum said.