By Lauren Appelbaum, Political Director
Washington, Dec. 7 – At the Republican Jewish Coalition Presidential Forum, all of the Republican candidates in attendance reaffirmed their commitment to America’s relationship with Israel and to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons.
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich pledged to reform the State Department and move the U.S. embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. The nearly 500 RJC members attending the day-long forum responded in a resounding round of applause with many jumping to their feet.
Speaking later in the afternoon, Congresswoman Michele Bachmann made the same pledge. “It will be on inauguration day under my administration that we will move our embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.” She said she already has a donor who offered to pay the moving costs for the embassy and ambassador. Bachmann also said her maiden visit as president would include meeting with the prime minister and speaking to the Knesset.
Governor Mitt Romney restated his promise to travel to Israel on his first foreign trip, a statement he originally made at a debate on Nov. 22. “I will reaffirm as a vital national interest Israel’s existence as a Jewish state. I want the world to know that the bonds between Israel and the United States are unshakable. I want every country in the region that harbors aggressive designs against Israel to understand that their ambition is futile and that pursuing it will cost them dearly.”
Gingrich questioned the Obama administration’s policies toward the peace process, stressing the need for violence to stop first. “Why, in a peace process, would Israel need to have a missile defense from Gaza? Can you imagine if our neighbor was firing missiles at us?”
Ambassador Jon Huntsman added, “It is time for the world to understand who our friends and allies are. It is time for the world to understand that we stand with Israel.”
Governor Rick Perry, who has come under fire for calling for all foreign aid to start at zero, made a passionate case for American support of Israel, saying he has a personal connection due to numerous visits to the country.
Perry differentiated foreign aid from strategic defense aid in order to get out of the zero out foreign aid problem with Israel. Saying Israel receives defense aid, not foreign aid, Perry stressed how Israel is America’s strategic ally and that “strategic defensive aid under a Perry administration will increase to Israel.”
On Iran, Romney called for both covert and overt actions to prevent the ayatollahs from obtaining nuclear weapons. “I would not meet with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. He should be excluded from diplomatic society. He should be indicted for the crime of incitement to genocide under Article III of the Genocide Convention. Iran’s ayatollahs will not be permitted to obtain nuclear weapons on my watch. A nuclear-armed Iran is not only a threat to Israel; it is a threat to the entire world. Our friends must never fear that we will not stand by them in an hour of need. Our enemies should never doubt our resolve.”
Gingrich pledged to follow the Reagan playbook and called for covert operations in Iran and said he would focus on the gas supply, with the aim of targeting Iran’s lone gas refinement facility for daily sabotage. He also said a Gingrich administration would support and fund dissident groups. Commenting on the Iranian regime, “It is better to stop them early than to stop them late.”
Calling Iran a serious threat to the future of the United States, Senator Rick Santorum said, “The United States, not Israel, will stop Iran from getting the nuclear weapon, period.”
Huntsman said he could not live with the outcome of a nuclear Iran. Therefore, “for me, all options are on the table.”
Congressman Ron Paul was not in attendance at the forum. He was not invited to participate. Soon President Obama will do major outreach to Jewish Americans at the upcoming conference of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations. Thousands are expected to attend.