Ballot Box

Bachmann: No road to Palestinian statehood in foreseeable future

Michele Bachmann described an "unequivocal and unchanging" commitment to Israel's security and prosperity, saying she saw no present path to Palestinian statehood and pledging to thwart calls for Palestinians refugees to return to Israel.

"I do not see presently that there is a road to statehood, with the current state of affairs," Bachmann said Wednesday at a Republican Jewish Coalition forum. "There would need to be radical changes afoot."

Bachmann said there would be "no right of return to Israel for Palestinian so-called refugees," referring to those who fled to other nations around the time of Israel's independence in 1948. There are 5 million Palestinian refugees dispersed throughout the Middle East and elsewhere, according to the United Nations — which Bachmann called the most overrated organization in the world. More than 1.4 million live in refugee camps in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and the Palestinian territories.

She also vowed never to support a divided Jerusalem. Israel annexed east Jerusalem along with the West Bank after it captured it from Jordan in the 1967 Mideast War. But Palestinians maintain a claim to that part of the city and hope to build the capital of a future state there.

"Our policy [under Obama] has confused engagement with appeasement and it has inspired Israel's enemies," Bachmann said. "The Palestinians must also recognize Israel's right to exist, which they have not."

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Perry vows to up strategic aid to Israel

Rick Perry pledged to increase strategic foreign aid to Israel if elected president, making clear he would permit no ebb in U.S. support for Israel, but also contradicting an earlier pledge to individually evaluate whether any country should receive foreign aid.

"Strategic defensive aid, strategic aid in all forms under a Perry administration will increase to Israel," Perry said.

Perry has fallen under fire from Israel supporters in the three weeks since he said during a GOP presidential debate that he would zero out foreign aid to every country, then weigh the strategic value in restoring it to any nation. Asked later in the debate whether that applied to Israel, the recipient of billions of dollars per year in military support from the United States, Perry said it would, but that Israel would likely be deemed a worthy investment of foreign aid.

Perry shifted his position on Wednesday during a speech to the Republican Jewish Coalition, attempting to draw a distinction between "traditional foreign aid" and "strategic defensive aid," which he said would continue to be a focus of U.S. foreign policy under his watch.

Perry also called for the United States to side with Israel against "what will inevitably be international condemnation if she is forced to strike" to impede Iran's nuclear program.

"Israel also needs our vocal, un-erring moral support," the Texas governor said.

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New PACs appropriate rhetoric of Occupy movement

Two political action committees registered with the Federal Election Commission Wednesday claiming to represent the values of the Occupy Wall Street movement.

Todd Bailey, a senior government affairs specialist at KSE Partners in Vermont, registered Americans for a Better Tomorrow, Today and Occupy Your Democracy as PACs.

“Really what we're working on are the issues exposed with the Occupy Wall Street Movement,” Bailey said. “It appears that the Occupy movement will be sitting out the electoral process, and the people who I work for want to make sure those ideals are discussed.” 

One of the PACs registered Wednesday will eventually be turned into an independent expenditure committee, or super PAC, Bailey said.

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Gingrich tries to trump Romney in speech to GOP Jewish voters

Newt Gingrich worked to one-up Mitt Romney and the other GOP presidential hopefuls in his approach to relations with Israel, pledging to move the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, vowing to fund every dissident group in Iran and floating former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton as his pick to run the State Department.

Gingrich's comments Wednesday at the Republican Jewish Coalition forum marked an escalation in the contest for which candidate can take the most staunch and unquestioning position in support of Israel.

The former House Speaker also lashed out at President Obama, decrying his approach to U.S.-Israel relations as outrageous and accusing the president of self-deception and appeasement.

"It's always Israel's fault, no matter how bad the other side is. It has to stop," Gingrich said to frenetic applause.

Gingrich vowed, that if elected, within hours of his inaugural address he would issue an executive order moving the U.S. embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

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Tea Party supporters protest Virginia Senate debate

RICHMOND — Tea Party supporters gathered outside Virginia's capitol building to protest the Senate debate between former Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine (D) and former Sen. George Allen (R-Va.) because it excluded minor candidates.

A few dozen protestors waved "Don't tread on me" flags and signs that read "Shame on you, George Allen and Tim Kaine" and "Liberal media, keep out of our primary process," although rainy, windy conditions forced some to find cover.

The Associated Press, which sponsored the debate, made the unusual requirements that any candidate who wanted to appear in the debate had to have one-fifth as much money as the front-runner and reach 15 percent in at least one public poll.

This angered Tea Party challengers to Allen, including Jamie Radtke, a former chairwoman of the Virginia Tea Party Patriots, who was excluded by the requirements. She appeared with the protestors.

The race is expected to be one of the marquee Senate races in the country, and polling has shown the two candidates to be neck-and-neck.

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Romney: Obama 'timid and weak' on Iranian threat to Israel

Mitt Romney positioned himself as President Obama's polar opposite on foreign policy Wednesday, laying out a tough bottom line on U.S. support for Israel.

The former Massachusetts governor accused the president of appeasing U.S. enemies and presiding over a weakening of American military power and standing in the world.

"He's been timid and weak on the existential threat that Israel faces from Iran. These actions have emboldened Palestinian hardliners," Romney told the Republican Jewish Coalition.

Romney received the warmest reception of the three presidential candidate to address the coalition Wednesday morning. He described a more aggressive and hardline approach to foreign policy than either Rick Santorum or Jon Huntsman.

He vowed once again to make his first foreign trip as president to Israel, to refuse to meet with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and "to reaffirm as a vital national interest Israel's existence as a Jewish state."

While the other candidates expressed vociferous support for Israel, Romney went further than his opponents by tying U.S. support for Israel to its Jewish character.

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