Romney, Perry Confused and Confusing on Aid to Israel
11/14/2011 - 15:04
Douglas Bloomfield



Mitt Romney, the candidate who doesn't come down on the side of any issue so much as he tries to surround them all, seemed confused this time about what he wants to do with aid to Israel.

When Texas Gov. Rick Perry said at Saturday night's Republican candidates' foreign policy debate in South Carolina that on funding foreign aid "Every country would start at zero," Romney chimed in, "I agree with Governor Perry. Start everything at zero," Politico reported.  

There was a collective gasp from Republican Jewish operatives who are planning once again to target Barack Obama as hostile to the Jewish state – a strategy that backfired on them in 2008, especially in Florida.

Both the Perry and Romney campaigns, after some prodding, came out with a typical politician's response:  "That may be what I said but that's not what I meant."

Later in the debate, moderator Scott Pelley of CBS read a question from Twitter asking, “Does governor Perry’s foreign aid starts at zero include Israel?”

 “Absolutely,” Perry answered.

The Republican Jewish Coalition tweeted Ben Smith at Politico: "hoping @perrytruthteam will brief their man on 10-year Memorandum of Understanding that governs US- #Israel funding levels."

Perry's properly prodded handlers eventually tweeted: "Obviously Israel is a special ally and my bet is we would be funding them at some substantial level. But it makes sense for everyone to come in at zero and make your case."

Delighted Democrats took these answers, especially Romney's because he is the frontrunner while Perry seems to be steadily dropping to the back of the pack, and began firing away.

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, chair of the Democratic National Committee, grabbed an opportunity to tell Jewish voters, "We're more pro-Israel than the other guys."

 “I’m aghast that the leading Republican contenders for President tonight, including Mitt Romney, pledged to zero out the foreign aid budget including the traditional and vital support the U.S. has provided the Jewish state of Israel for its security.  I cannot think of a more irresponsible, risky or deplorable position towards our most important friend and ally," she declared.

It was quickly obvious neither GOP hopeful had done his homework and both were just shooting from the lip and pandering to the xenophobia of their conservative audience. The U.S. and Israel have a 10-year agreement to provide Israel with security assistance worth approximately $30 billion, as RJC tried to remind Perry's staff. Perry and Romney suggested they would scrap that in favor of a zero-based foreign aid budget.

A day later Romney attempted a partial retreat when a spokesperson emailed AFP: "Mitt Romney firmly believes that the United States must continue supporting Israel and increase military aid to our strongest friend and ally."

Perry's campaign released a statement describing him as "a friend to Israel" who "understands the challenges faced by the country," which is "a unique and vital political and economic partner for the United States," AFP reported.

But, most revealing, neither candidate pledged to maintain the current level of U.S. aid to Israel under the agreement signed during the Bush Administration and extending beyond the end of the term of the president to be elected next year.

The question of foreign aid is one that needs and deserves serious discussion, not self-aggrandizing political pandering, but don't look for any of that in this or any election year.

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First, I am a registered democrat in NYCD17, a secular Jew who knows that Ramat Shlomo and Gilo are NOT "settlements", yet Obama turned those two Jerusalem neighborhoods that happen to be east of the 1949 armistice line into two separate and very public diplomatic rifts with Israel.

Second, there is an intense debate in Israel about the strings the USA attaches to the 100% military aid, including that Israel spend 75% of those dollars on Made in USA technologies; that the USA dictates that Israel sell defense technologies to Turkey, the NATO “ally”; and the USA constrains Israeli companies from joint ventures with non-USA companies, especially in avionics.

Third, Zero-based budgeting for all Federal (or state or city) expenditures is a good idea. Texas budgets on a two-year cycle, and I assume a President Perry knows to start the zero-base budget process in year ONE to establish a new baseline for four years, since Congress seems to find it impossible to actually produce an annual budget.

Fourth, Governor Perry has the strongest position on Israel of any candidate, since his first visit to Israel in 1992 as Texas Ag Commissioner. Perry’s depth on Israel as America’s most reliable and important ally in the Middle East is based on his direct experience on economic, trade, technology, and military views of Israel.

Fifth, Gov. Perry had the courage of his convictions to stand next to MK Danon in NYC on Sept 20, 2011, during UN week, calling Obama’s treatment of Israel “naive, arrogant, misguided, and dangerous”.

Obama made Israel a top 3 issue for me in May, 2008. He has proven his disdain for Israel since his election.

Which is why I follow the GOP process so closely.

It was Newt that agreed with Rick Perry not Mitt !! This whole article is based on a false premise !!