Yesterday ThinkProgress reported on GOP presidential contender and former Godfather’s Pizza CEO Herman Cain’s misstep in an interview on Fox News Sunday when he showed an embarrassing lack of knowledge about Middle East policy. Cain was asked about “right of return” — a key sticking point in peace talks that would allow displaced Palestinians to return to Israel — and appeared to have never heard of the issue. This deer-in-the-headlights moment clearly flustered his fledgling campaign, which issued a statement late last night trying to walk back and recast his answer to make it seem as if Cain knew what he was talking about all along.
In his Fox interview, Cain said he supported allowing Palestinians to return to Israel because, he (falsely) claimed, the Israel government would have no problem with it. After the interview, Cain’s staff evidently informed him that this is, in fact, the opposite of Israel’s longstanding position. His campaign tried to contain the damage by issuing the following statement, which completely contradicts Cain’s position from earlier the same day:
All Israeli governments have rejected the “right” of large numbers of Arabs or Palestinians to return to what is now the state of Israel. Such an en masse return would unbalance Israel’s demographic makeup as the world’s sole Jewish state. […]
Israel has a long record of being more gracious to its enemies than its enemies are to it, and this would be yet another example of that. But is the “right of return” a moral imperative? Is it something Israel must grant? Is it something the United States ought to encourage?
The answer is no on every count.
In his statement, Cain tells supporters that “as President, I will never lose sight of these basic facts [about the U.S. — Israel relationship].” Although that can’t be terribly reassuring given how tenuous his grasp of basic facts about the region is to begin with.