Texas Gov. Rick Perry, the front-runner for the GOP presidential nomination, blasted President Obama on his policies toward Israel in a Tuesday speech in New York as the president conducts meetings at U.N. headquarters.
Perry blamed the “muddle” of Obama’s Middle East policies for Palestinians’ push this week for U.N. recognition as a state. The Obama adminstration has said it will veto that vote.
Perry also wrote an op-ed for The Jerusalem Post and The Wall Street Journal late last week that slammed Obama’s policies.
“Unfortunate errors by the Obama administration have encouraged the Palestinians to take steps backward away from peace,” Perry wrote. “It was a mistake to inject an Israeli construction freeze, including in Jerusalem, as an unprecedented precondition for talks. Indeed, the Palestinian leadership had been negotiating with Israel for years, notwithstanding settlement activity.”
The issue matters in the GOP primary both because of the large Jewish vote in early-voting Florida and because conservative Evangelical Christians see it as a big issue and strongly support Israel. There are large numbers of evangelical Christians in the early-voting states of Iowa and South Carolina.
Other Republican contenders have commented on the issue, which is becoming a hot-button political topic. Obama’s Israel policies were credited with helping Republicans win an upset in last week’s House special election in a heavily Jewish New York City district. Newly elected Rep. Bob Turner (R-N.Y.) made Israel the centerpiece of his campaign, and appeared with Perry at the speech.
Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (R) said in a Tuesday morning news release that the U.N. debate “is an unmitigated diplomatic disaster,” and described it as “the culmination of President Obama’s repeated efforts over three years to throw Israel under the bus and undermine its negotiating position.”
Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) also criticized Obama for calling for negotiations to be based around Israel’s 1967 borders and in a Tuesday news release said he should not allow Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to attend the U.N. meetings. Foreign leaders at odds with the United States routinely come to the United Nations, and have done so since its creation.
Updated from an earlier version.