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On December 7, the Republican presidential candidates spoke to the Republican Jewish Coalition, except for Ron Paul who was not invited. The six contenders went before the influential organization to make their case that they’d be the best one to handle Israel, the Middle East and the war against radical Islam.
Newt Gingrich, the new frontrunner, said that the country is in the same spot in the struggle against radical Islam that it was in 1946 against the Soviet Union. He asserted that the U.S. prosecution of this struggle is “based on a pack of lies and a pack of self-deception,” using the Justice Department’s removal of all mentions of Islam from their counter-terrorism training materials as an example.
Gingrich said he’d support a policy of regime change in Iran and Syria. He would replicate the strategy used by Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher and Pope John Paul II to bring down the Soviet Union. Iran’s gas refinery should be sabotaged and “every dissident group” in Iran should get U.S. funding and other forms of assistance, like with communications. He admitted that the U.S. doesn’t know what a post-Assad Syria will look like, but said it was worth the risk. He ruled out using U.S. forces to topple Assad, but favors helping the rebel forces.
He again promised to sign an executive order immediately after his inauguration that would move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Gingrich pledged to transform the government, including the national security apparatus. He announced that he’d choose former U.N. ambassador John Bolton to be his Secretary of State, drawing a huge applause. Bolton would be tasked with changing the State Department’s culture of appeasement. The intelligence community will be “liberated” so that it doesn’t have to rely upon questionable allies like Pakistan for information.
Gingrich was the only one to mention the State Department’s hosting of the Organization of the Islamic Conference in Washington D.C. next week and the prosecution of the war in Iraq. He said the U.S. should never work with “those who would censor the world on behalf of Islam.” On Iraq, he argued that it wouldn’t have taken a turn for the worst under his direction. Gingrich said that he warned the Bush Administration to hire, not fire, the Iraqi army and withdraw from the cities. He harshly criticized Paul Bremer, the leader of the Coalition Provincial Authority that governed Iraq after Saddam fell.
Mitt Romney again promised that his first trip abroad would be to Israel. He did not speak about overthrowing Iran’s government, but did say that he’d push for the indictment of Ahmadinejad based on Article 3 of the Genocide Convention. Romney was the only candidate to mention American policy towards Russia. He criticized the New START Treaty, calling it “one-sided” and criticizing President Obama for offering to remove the anti-ballistic missile defense from Poland and to exclude tactical nuclear weapons from the agreement.
Romney said that the Republican presidential field will all stand by Israel and have the same views on Iran but “what distinguishes us is our experience, our perspective and our judgment.” He used the remainder of the speech to highlight his credentials on the economy and his personal history. He was sure to talk about his long marriage and strong family in a discreet contrast with Gingrich.
Michele Bachmann sounded like a policy wonk, demonstrating her depth of knowledge with facts and examples. She opened up by comparing the early sighting of a Japanese submarine before the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor to today’s warnings about Iran. She mentioned that the Iranian constitution mandates jihad. She called for a policy of regime change based on supporting the Iranian opposition and increased covert operations while developing a war plan to stop Iran from going nuclear if necessary.
Bachmann spoke at length about her feelings towards Israel. As Gingrich earlier pledged, she said she’d authorize the moving of the U.S. embassy in Tel Aviv to Jerusalem on her first day as president. She said that the first step towards peace must be taken by the Palestinian Authority, which is in violation of its agreements to fight against terrorism and to not inspire it. She said that Fatah must change its constitution so that it no longer calls for the destruction of Israel.
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