Flanked by Israeli politicians and New York Jewish community leaders, presidential hopeful Rick Perry made his foreign policy debut today at a bizarre political rally that brought the Texas Governor and his heavily evangelical campaign team with some of New York’s most politically-connected and powerful Orthodox Jewish leaders.Perry endeared himself to the hawkish pro-Israel activists by attacking the Obama administration for its policies on Israel in a speech that basically blamed the President for the Palestinian Authority’s decision to submit a bid for statehood to the United Nations this week.
“Simply put, we would not be here today at the precipice of such a dangerous move if the Obama policy in the Middle East wasn’t naive, arrogant, misguided and dangerous,” Perry said, speaking to a room of about 100 reporters, Republican Jewish activists, and Israeli politicians at the Union Square W Hotel this morning.
After delivering a hawkish speech — clearly influenced by his new friends — Perry ceded the podium to the cluster of Jewish leaders standing behind him. From there, the event basically turned into a pro-Israel rally, with the Texas Governor as emcee.
It may seem like an odd political coupling. But Perry is clearly banking on shoring up support among conservative Jewish voters — and donors — many of whom are unhappy with Obama’s stance toward the Jewish state. Newly-elected New York Congressman Bob Turner, a Republican, was among the speakers, and pointed to his upset win in the 9th District last week as evidence that even Democratic Jews are turning on the President.
In questions after the event, Perry broke from past U.S.-Israeli policies, laying out a position that can best be described as a hands-off approach to Israel. While stating that he favours a “two-state solution,” Perry indicated that, as president, he would allow Israel to dictate the terms of any negotiations and would not oppose new construction of Israeli settlements in the West Bank. He also said he supports a unified Jerusalem and would move the U.S. Embassy to the city.
But compared to the other speakers, Perry’s vision is relatively centrist. Likud leader Danny Danon, the Deputy Speaker of the Israeli Knesset, opposes a two-state solution and advocates Israel’s annexation of the West Bank. Perry’s praise for Danon and his fellow hawks indicate that Perry has, at least privately, given assurances that they would have free rein under his administration.
State assemblyman Dov Hikind, a Democrat, tells a TV reporter that he has not yet endorsed Rick Perry for president, but says he will not support Obama in 2012.
Perry listens as newly-elected U.S. Rep. Bob Turner (R-NY) argues that his special election win last week was a referendum on Obama's Israel policies. Turner replaced disgraced Congressman Anthony Weiner in New York's 9th District.
Perry poses for a photo with one of his new supporters before taking off to a fundraiser, hosted by another set of powerful Republican Jews.
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