It’s no secret that most of the Republicans running for president are trying to paint President Obama as Israel’s enemy. During the Fox News debate last week, former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty — who has since dropped out of the race — said Obama “repeatedly sticks his thumb in Israel’s eye.”
It’s important to remember that while the Obama-hates-Israel lines get good applause from the far right, this notion has no basis in reality. Take for example Obama’s statement last May that “the borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps.” Despite the fact that the president was merely reiterating settled U.S. policy, right-wing hawks cried foul, saying Obama had sold out Israel. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also initially fussed about Obama’s 1967 borders statement, but he has since agreed to peace talks based on Obama’s policy and Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD) said last week that Netanyahu told him that he and Obama “were in agreement” on the issue.
Yet the facts don’t seem to be getting in the way of a good attack line. Announcing his candidacy for president over the weekend, Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) continued this trend, falsely claiming that Obama is trying to dictate “new borders” for Israel:
America’s standing in the world is in peril, not only because of disastrous economic policies, but from the incoherent muddle that they call foreign policy. Our president has insulted our friends and he’s encouraged our enemies, thumbing his nose at traditional allies like Israel. He seeks to dictate new borders for the Middle East and the oldest democracy there, Israel, while he is an abject failure in his constitutional duty to protect our borders in the United States.
“The idea that the President would make this statement about going back to the ’67 borders sent a chill down all of my friends’ back and certainly mine,” Perry said in an interview with Time last week. But it’s unclear why Obama’s 1967 borders statement should worry Perry and his pals. It doesn’t worry Netanyahu, Israel’s opposition leader, and most Israelis and Palestinians. “I should tell you honestly that the president didn’t say that Israel should go back to the borders of ’67,” said Israeli defense minister Ehud Barak last week, who added, “I can hardly remember a better period of support, American support” for Israel.
Of course then, attacking Obama on Israel seems to serve one purpose for these GOP presidential candidates: rallying the base and filling campaign coffers. Indeed, one former McCain presidential campaign flack said recently of Perry, “He’s a cowboy. You have to assume he’d shoot first and ask questions later — which would be nice after four years of a leading from behind, too little too late foreign policy.”