Obama 'disrespected' Israel, threw it 'under the bus,' says Romney

President Obama "disrespected" Israel and threw it "under the bus" in a wide-ranging speech on the Middle East on Thursday, GOP presidential contender Mitt Romney charged.

Romney strongly criticized Obama, who, in a speech at the State Department, called for Israel to return to its border lines as drawn before the 1967 Arab-Israeli war.

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"President Obama has thrown Israel under the bus. He has disrespected Israel and undermined its ability to negotiate peace," Romney said in a statement.

"He has also violated a first principle of American foreign policy, which is to stand firm by our friends," added the former Massachusetts governor.

Romney led Republicans in criticizing the Obama speech, which touched on broader themes throughout the Middle East, including the popular movements for democratization, from Egypt to Yemen, during the first half of the year.

"President Obama has betrayed Israel and made a grievous mistake by suggesting borders of Israel go back to pre-1967 borders. This is an outrage to peace, sovereignty of Israel, and a stable Middle East," former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R), a 2008 Republican presidential candidate who's been a staunch supporter of Israel, said in a statement.

Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.), meanwhile, suggested Obama's stance could represent "the beginning of the end as we know it for the Jewish state."

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, another Republican presidential candidate, declined to comment on the Obama speech during an appearance on the Rush Limbaugh radio show this afternoon, explaining that he hadn't yet been able to listen to the speech or digest its contents.

The political battle lines emerged quickly on Thursday afternoon after Obama's speech, especially after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejected the president's call for a return to 1967 borders.

Netanyahu will meet with Obama on Friday at the White House, and he'll stay in Washington over the weekend before addressing the AIPAC conference Monday and a joint meeting of Congress on Tuesday.