Posted by on March 07, 2012 in Blog
A 'tragic disconnect'
Rick Santorum said nothing new today in his address at the AIPAC policy conference. From the very beginning it was clear that he, as one expects, would use his time to deliver a political message and take the opportunity to lash out at Obama’s Israel policy, especially with regard to Iran. Santorum’s political message was simple: Obama has “turned his back on the people of Israel,” he said. “A clear and unfortunate, tragic disconnect,” he proclaimed emphatically, exists between the administration and the Israelis with regard to Iran’s potential threat. “We need to do more than just talk,” he said. We expect the pandering, but the true disconnect lies between what the intelligence community is saying about an Iran attack and Santorum's views on the matter. Taking a shot at Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey, Santorum said, “The fact that we have the chairman of the Joint Chiefs saying we're not sure yet that Iran is really going to pursue or has made the decision to develop a nuclear weapon just shows again the disconnect.” Santorum was referringto the caution raised by both General Dempsey and British Foreign Minister William Hague two weeks ago when the two officials expressed a degree of opposition to an imprudent Israeli attack without even giving sanctions a chance to take full effect. If Rick Santorum read Israeli press reports, he would know that the Israeli intelligence community is extremely split on how to deal with Iran.
Out of touch
Israeli-Palestinian affairs were virtually absent during the AIPAC policy conference. With Iran at the forefront of the conversation, many speakers chose to congenially avoid the single most contentious issue in the Middle East for over 60 years. Surprisingly, Mitt Romney was among the few who decided to talk directly on the matter. His comments on the peace process will be our focus here. At the beginning of his speech, Romney said:
The current administration has distanced itself from Israel and visibly warmed to the Palestinian cause. It has emboldened the Palestinians. They are convinced that they can do better at the UN – and better with America – than they can at the bargaining table with Israel.
Romney didn’t stop there. He made it pretty clear that he doesn’t believe achieving peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians is a top priority. “Talking about a peace process right now is a bit like setting up a tent in the middle of a hurricane,” he said. “So there has to be some settling down of a number of questions I think before the peace process is going to get its legs again.” Romney’s tone and rhetoric seem to imply that it is not in Israel’s interest to make peace with the Palestinians – an concept with which many Israelis would beg to differ. Barack Ravid, reporter for Haaretz, tweeted during Romney’s speech: “Quite amazing that Romney thinks that peace process is not an Israeli interest.” Here, Romney gets so caught up in what he thinks the pro-Israel crowd wants to hear that he finds himself supporting putting Israel on a confrontational path on two fronts: with the Palestinians and with the Iranians.
It’s all about radical Islam
Newt Gingrich botched his speech. He clearly didn’t even have a speech prepared. He had, after all, just awoken from dozing off several times during Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta’s speech. Gingrich expected to be questioned by an AIPAC panel. But after a few seconds of awkward silence, he was notified that there was no panel, so he went on again. Right out of the gates, Gingrich said, “We need a fundamental reassessment of our entire understanding of the threat of radical Islam.” After grouping Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, Egypt, the Fort Hood shooting, Osama bin Laden and Hamid Karzai all together in one breath, Gingrich abruptly turned to energy independence and hit out at the Saudis. “We will no longer tolerate their funding of Madrasas which teach hatred and teach terrorism.” He then briefly transitioned to Iran saying “The red line is not the morning the bomb goes off, or the morning our intelligence committee tells us they’ve failed once again…the red line is now.” Gingrich must have forgotten who he was speaking to, because his speech was more about “radical Islam” than about the U.S.-Israeli relationship. Why does Gingrich think he needs to pander to anti-Muslim sentiment to win the pro-Israel crowd's support?