Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney went on the offense at last night’s Republican Presidential Debate, attacking the White House’s treatment of Israel and charging that the Obama administration has “time and time again shown distance from Israel.” That distance, said Romney, has resulted in a “greater sense of aggression” from the Palestinians.
But Romney’s attacks are based on wholesale fabrications of President Barack Obama’s track record as a close ally of Israel for the past three years. Romney charged:
This president went before the United Nations and castigated Israel for building settlements. He said nothing about thousands of rockets being rained in on Israel from the Gaza Strip.
The smear may have garnered applause from the debate audience but a National Jewish Democratic Council fact check found that Obama’s September 21, 2011 U.N. speech had explicitly addressed the issue of rockets fired into Israel. Obama said:
Let us be honest with ourselves: Israel is surrounded by neighbors that have waged repeated wars against it. Israel’s citizens have been killed by rockets fired at their houses and suicide bombs on their buses.
Romney went on to charge the White House with “[throwing] Israel under the bus” by “defining ’67 borders as a starting point for negotiations” — a position also held by the George W. Bush and Clinton administrations — and accused Obama of “[disrespecting] Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — Bibi Netanyahu.”
Following Obama’s U.N. speech in September, Netanyahu said to President Obama:
I think that standing your ground, taking this position of principle… I think this is a badge of honor and I want to thank you for wearing that badge of honor.
And last May, Netanyahu praised Obama’s commitment to Israel’s security, telling the audience at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) conference that Obama had made an “ironclad commitment to Israel’s security” and “[has] backed those words with deeds.”
Israel and discussion of U.S Middle East policy is one of the few foreign policy topics to emerge as a wedge issue for the GOP presidential candidates. Indeed, in the previous GOP debate three days ago, Newt Gingrich also made false claims about Obama’s policy toward Israel. But Obama’s track record of close cooperation with Israel requires critics like Romney and Gingrich to resort to outright fabrications to smear Obama as a weak ally to the Jewish state.