Perry Embraces Israel, Bashes Obama on the Middle East

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Rick Perry’s foreign policy remains, in important ways, a work in progress, and a source of some anxiety for Republican foreign policy neocons. But speaking in New York on Tuesday morning, Perry made two things crystal clear: his more-or-less unconditional support for Israel, and his opposition to the Obama administration’s controversial efforts to pressure Bibi Netanyahu over settlement activity. Calling for an immediate return to direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, he also reiterated his strong opposition to the Palestinian bid for statehood at the United Nations. Perry warned that U.S. aid to the Palestinian Authority should be “reconsidered” if P.A. leader Mahmoud Abbas doesn’t abandon that effort.

Perry also blasted Obama for an overall “Middle East policy of appeasement,” characterized by what Perry calls time-wasting efforts to negotiate with Tehran and Damascus. “We have been complacent in encouraging revolt against hostile governments in Iran and Syria and we have been slow to recognize the risks posed by the new regime in Egypt and the increasingly strained relationship between Israel and Turkey,” Perry said. On Iran, Perry offered that standard line that “all options must remain on the table” to prevent Tehran from developing military nuclear capability. (Perry has demonstrated some prior interest in Iran: namely his efforts to force Texas to divest its holdings from the country, which he has said “has a clear terrorist focus.”)

None of this should surprise anyone who follows Republican policy on Israel, as Perry’s positions sync with most every other Republican presidential candidate and congressional leaders. It remains to be seen whether Perry will make the de rigeur pilgrimage to visit Netanyahu in Jerusalem.

P.S. It’s worth noting that, unlike the last big national security speech by a GOP candidate–the somewhat more combative remarks of the since-departed Tim Pawlenty, Perry didn’t make fun of the famous “lead from behind” descriptor of Obama’s foreign policy. It would seem that the fall of Tripoli has retired that one, at least for now.