At a raucous press conference in downtown Manhattan on Tuesday, with American Jewish leaders and members of the Israeli Parliament standing proudly behind him, Republican presidential frontrunner Rick Perry slammed Barack Obama over his “appeasement” of Palestine and other regional Israeli adversaries and, with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’ push for official recognition by the United Nations over the coming weeks as the backdrop, repeatedly labeled the president’s approach to the region “naive” and misguided.
“The Obama policy of moral equivalency which gives equal standing to the grievances of Israelis and Palestinians — including the orchestrators of terrorism — is a very dangerous insult,” Perry said. “There is no middle ground between our allies and those who seek their destruction.”
Perry attacked the president for pushing for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government to halt settlement construction and come to the negotiating table.
Obama “put them in a position of weakness taking away our flexibility to offer concessions,” Perry complained.
The Texas governor and several of the Jewish leaders appearing with him pressed for a return to the contours of the 1993 Oslo Accords, where Palestinians acknowledged the right of Israel to exist and the Jewish state pledged to withdraw forces from some of the contested areas in Gaza and the West Bank.
Perry gave red meat to a crowd that wildly applauded him and seemed thrilled to have a Christian with theological reasons for backing Israel in its midst.
“There is no middle ground between our allies and those who seek their destruction,” he said.
Perry staked out a far-right position, seeming to embrace further settlement construction by Israeli settlers in the West Bank — “it’s their land” — despite most observers agreeing new settlements are an obstacle to peace.
As many have before him, Perry criticized the president for calling for a return to 1967 borders with mutual land swaps. And the context — the recent special election in New York’s ninth congressional district where a Republican won for the first time in 80 years by running to the right of his Jewish Democratic opponent on the Israel question — was almost as important as the speech itself.
The winner of that race, Republican Bob Turner, was praised by Perry and appeared himself, saying the message from his win was that Obama was wrong on Israel.
The speakers were most animated when talking about the potential for the United Nations to recognize Palestine, as if Obama supported the bid; the cognitive dissonance was palpable, as the president has loudly called for such efforts to halt until a peace deal is brokered directly between the two sides.
Asked at one point if his Christian faith factored into his wholehearted support for Israel, Perry acknowledged that, like many Evangelicals, he had Biblical reasons for backing the Jewish state.
“I also as a Christian have a clear directive to support Israel,” he said
This follows Perry raising the Israel issue during a recent stop down South in front of an Evangelical crowd.
“What our current president did relative to the 1967 border issue, to basically throw Israel under the bus… was unconscionable, in my opinion,” Perry said earlier this month in Conway, South Carolina, a key early primary state.