'Absurd' for Israel to become partisan issue, says ex-Obama adviser

HERZLIYA, Israel — It would be "absurd" if support for Israel becomes a divisive, partisan issue in the U.S. political arena, one of President Obama's former top advisers said Monday. 

Amid signs that Israel could be part of the campaign debate in 2012, retired Gen. James Jones, Obama's former national security adviser, said the United States's support for Israel is too important a security issue for it to fall prey to partisan politics.

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"I think that matters of national security and international security, this is one that is major, perhaps the most major," he told reporters at the Herzliya Conference in Israel. "We've had a bipartisan policy that belies the seriousness of this issue in such a way that it if it were to fall prey to partisan politics, it would be absurd."

Jones's comments come as several possible 2012 Republican presidential candidates have taken an increased interest in the Jewish state.

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (R) visited Israel last month and ex-Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R) traveled here last week, meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour (R) is also scheduled to address the Herzliya Conference, traditionally a foreign policy stop for potential presidential candidates, on Wednesday. 

Some analysts in Israel have privately expressed concern that Republicans could use support for Israel as a wedge issue on the campaign trail. They cite President Obama's rocky relationship with Netanyahu, which feeds some opponents' view the president is not a friend of Israel. 

Democrats have also looked to pierce Republicans' armor, citing Sen. Rand Paul's (R-Ky.) proposal to cut U.S. aid to Israel. The idea, however, has not found many supporters in the GOP conference.

While several current and former Israeli government officials this week said the U.S. has made mistakes with Israel under Obama, they downplayed the significance of his personal relationship with Netanyahu.

"I think it is a motif that the relationship is stronger than any personality in office," said Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon. "I think that this is only secondary to the relationship between the two nations."

Said Jones: "I think both Republicans and Democrats all agree on our long-term support for Israel and its people."

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