Posted by on December 07, 2011 in Blog

By Jamila Benkato

At times nervously wringing his hands, Rick Perry gave the RJC audience a stilted and rote speech, to lukewarm response.

“I want to be clear I support the goal of a Palestinian state,” Perry said before suggesting that “it should be the Palestinians who meet certain pre-conditions.” He pushed for direct negotiations between Palestine and Israel as the only legitimate path to Palestinian statehood, and lambasted the Obama administration for insisting on “previously unheard-of preconditions for Israel, such as an immediate stop to all settlement activity.” Of course, as a condition that Palestinian leadership and many outside have been demanding for years now, the halting of illegal Israeli settlements is most certainly not “unheard-of.”

After saying that Israel is in “a constant state of siege,” Perry described the Jewish people as having “a resolve to live free, and a willingness to go to any length to preserve your history, your heritage and your faith that is unsurpassed by any people on earth.” Earlier in the speech Perry praised Israel’s shared
“commitment to our core principles of personal freedom” – a claim that millions of displaced, imprisoned, isolated, and stateless Palestinians might find issue with.

Perry noted at one point that when it comes to the United States, “no country has done more to liberate millions of oppressed people, many of them Muslim, since the end of the Cold War.”

Although I admittedly am not a Perry speech aficionado, Perry’s performance was strangely hesitant, even awkward, and severely undercut any of his efforts to pander to the RJC audience. He became much more relaxed when speaking off-the-cuff during the question and answer session. Like Huntsman, Perry’s prepared remarks were light on policy. Instead, Perry evoked emotional images of his trips to Israel, read several Biblical passages, and used spiritual metaphors to evoke shared values and a sense of a united Judeo-Christian destiny.

During the question and answer session, Perry declared that he would never apologize for America. “We have freed too many people!” he exclaimed. “We have given too much blood on foreign soil for people to live free!” Now, Obama has of course recently refused to actually apologize for a NATO attack that killed Pakistani troops. But it is safe to say that apologies are an important part of diplomacy – and certainly a necessary skill for someone who desires to be the leader of what almost all of today’s speakers have called “the greatest country in the world.”

Video from C-SPAN available here, transcript found here.

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