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Walter Rodgers

GOP candidates show more loyalty to a foreign country (Israel) than their own

Republican presidential candidates do the United States a disservice in trying to bind an American president to the policies of Israel and its leader, Benjamin Netanyahu. Whatever happened to GOP foreign-policy realists, like Bush I?

By Walter Rodgers / October 4, 2011

It is disconcerting to see the foreign-policy traps that Republican presidential candidates set for themselves, especially when it comes to Israel and the Middle East.

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They do a disservice to the United States by trying to bind a sitting American president to the policies of a foreign government, specifically to the policies of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

What do you call it when GOP presidential hopefuls like Rick Perry and Mitt Romney publicly denounce a duly elected American president so they can walk in lock step with the Israeli leader, whose policies are often contrary to US interests?

Norman Olsen, a former US diplomat in Israel who served in Republican and Democratic administrations, warns: “It is destructive to our relations with every other country in the world for Republican presidential candidates to demand Obama bend to Israel’s policies.”

Mr. Romney recently accused President Obama of having “thrown Israel under the bus,” in part for saying that Israel’s 1967 borders should serve as a rough guide for a Palestinian state. And yet, this administration’s policy is quite consistent with that of past Republican and Democratic presidents.

Mr. Netanyahu doesn’t make it easy for America. His idea of “fortress Israel” – isolated, bellicose, and overly muscular – is not a sustainable concept. Time and technology are eroding Israel’s qualitative military edge. Thus, the continuing Sisyphean US efforts at peacemaking, with Mr. Obama being only the latest president to try to broker a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conundrum.

By contrast, when we listen to leading GOP candidates, we hear no inclination to pursue regional peace, let alone negotiate as an honest broker. Republican contenders are obviously courting Jewish voters and donors to woo them from Democrats. Fair enough.

But in the process, Texas Governor Perry and former Massachusetts Governor Romney have been pandering to the most uncompromising right-wing factions in Israel who have deliberately sabotaged US presidential peacemaking, from Bill Clinton to Obama. Put simply, these GOP candidates seem to want to outsource US foreign policy to factions that are tone-deaf to peacemaking.

Washington’s and Jerusalem’s private views of the world are rarely identical. A decade ago, a senior Israeli military intelligence officer told me the West’s “war on terror” is just a euphemism for a global war between Islam and the West.

But the US is not at war with Muslims, and neither George W. Bush, with his close ties to the Saudis, nor Obama, with his outreach to Muslims, have ever shared that perspective.


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