Romney, Pawlenty, Huckabee slam Obama on Middle East speech

Neil Munro White House Correspondent
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Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney slammed President Barack Obama’s Middle East reset speech today, saying “President Obama has thrown Israel under the bus,” according to a statement from the Romney for President Exploratory Committee.

In his speech, the president said that Israel should give up control over the territory it captured in 1967 ( with “mutually agreed swaps”), even before Arabs and Israel agree on the status of Jerusalem, and before Arabs agree to give up the “right of return” for the million-plus descendants of the many Arabs who fled Israel during the Arab invasion of 1948. The president did not announce that the U.S.  requires the Arabs to recognize Israel and to abandon their hopes of sending Arabs back into Israel.

The president, said Romney, “has disrespected Israel and undermined its ability to negotiate peace… [and] has also violated a first principle of American foreign policy, which is to stand firm by our friends.”

Governor Tim Pawlenty was similarly critical. “President Obama’s insistence on a return to the 1967 borders is a mistaken and very dangerous demand,” said his statement. “To send a signal to the Palestinians that America will increase its demands on our ally Israel, on the heels of the Palestinian Authority’s agreement with the Hamas terrorist organization, is a disaster waiting to happen.”

“The city of Jerusalem must never be re-divided… At this time of upheaval in the Middle East, it’s never been more important for America to stand strong for Israel and for a united Jerusalem,” said Pawlenty.

A similar message was broadcast by Gov. Mike Huckabee, who is not running for president. “Obama has betrayed Israel and made a grievous mistake by suggesting [the] borders of Israel go back to pre-1967 borders,” said a statement released by Huckabee’s HuckPAC. “This is an outrage to peace, sovereignty of Israel, and a stable Middle East.”

Huckabee’s longer statement included many of the background views that shaped Romney’s statement. “The nation of Israel was attacked in 1967 from all sides with a determination to annihilate her…[and] the Palestinians have steadfastly refused to acknowledge Israel’s right to exist, despite long standing international law to the contrary.”

“The President needs to worry less about the borders of Israel and start securing the borders of the United States,” said Huckabee’s statement.

The two statements comport with previous statements made by GOP legislators and candidates, and also with the views of many Republican-voting Jews and of some Jews who voted for Obama in 2008. Republicans, including Romney, are working though Jewish groups, such as the Republican Jewish Committee, to win over Republican-voting Jews and Democratic-voting Jews, partly because of their votes and social-influence, but also because they could become significant donors to GOP candidates’ 2012 campaigns.