ISRAEL POLITICAL BRIEF
Source: Virtual Jerusalem, 6-29-11
There is one slogan that unites the Republican presidential hopefuls: Hit Obama over his policy towards Israel. The Obama administration’s foreign policy, particularly toward the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, has long been a favorite Republican target. Yesterday, former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty jumped on the bandwagon.
Pawlenty has been sidelined in the past couple of weeks as tea party favorite Minnesota Congresswoman Michelle Bachman stole the media limelight. She knows how to make headlines and raise money, and recent polls put her right behind the leading candidate, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney.
Pawlenty lags behind, but analysts include him in the group of realistic candidates who have a real chance of winning the nomination, in contrast to candidates who are in the race to strike an ideological pose or out of egotism. Pawlenty has strong support in the Republican establishment, who look askance at the tea party, and on Wall Street.
In view of the disagreements within the Republican Party over US involvement in Afghanistan and Libya, Pawlenty has taken a strong hawkish stance. He slams the isolationism of the Republican’s extreme right wing and calls on the party to show clarity, determination, and strength toward the world. President Barack Obama’s relations with Israel are a central theme.
A key line in Pawlenty’s speech to the Council on Foreign Relations in New York yesterday was, “Today, the president doesn’t really have a policy toward the peace process. He has an attitude. And let’s be frank about what that attitude is: he thinks Israel is the problem. And he thinks the answer is always more pressure on Israel.”
Pawlenty said, “It breaks my heart that President Obama treats Israel, our great friend, as a problem, rather than as an ally. The president seems to genuinely believe the Israeli-Palestinian conflict lies at the heart of every problem in the Middle East. He said it Cairo in 2009 and again this year. President Obama could not be more wrong.”
He added that, despite wars and terrorist attacks, Israel offers all its citizens, men and women, Jews, Christians and Muslims, including 1.5 million Arabs, freedom of religion, the right to vote, access to an independent judiciary, and other democratic rights.
Pawlenty added that we must recognize that peace will only come when everyone in the region realizes that the US stands behind Israel with all its might. He said, if elected, his policy toward Israel would be based on four principles: not to undermine Israel in its negotiations or press it to accept borders that could harm its security; not to press Israel to negotiate with Hamas or with a Palestinian government that includes Hamas, unless Hamas recognizes Israel’s right to exist, rejects terrorism and accepts previous agreements; immediately end aid to the Palestinians if they do not cease their incitement against Israel; and foster moderates in Palestinian society.
Pawlenty said that Obama’s policy toward the Arab world was based on a lack of support for the democracy-seeking demonstrators in Iran and Egypt and for its reflexive response to support unworthy leaders in the face of demands for freedom from their people.
The National Jewish Democratic Council, which supports the Democratic Party, said in response, Pawlenty’s constant misrepresentations of President Barack Obama’s pro-Israel record are profoundly wrong and must stop immediately. By totally ignoring the facts of Obama’s strong support for Israel, Pawlenty sent the wrong message to the world this morning when he accused the President of having an ‘anti-Israel’ attitude and when he wrongfully asserted that Obama views Israel as ‘the problem’ in the Middle East.”