Flanked by top Jewish leaders and new GOP congressman Bob Turner, Rick Perry positioned himself as radically different from the Obama administration on Israeli policy in a press conference this morning.
Describing President Obama’s policy toward the Middle East as “appeasement,” Perry empathetically laid the blame for the current bid for Palestinian statehood at the White House’s steps.
“We would not be here today at the precipice of such a dangerous move if the Obama policy in the Middle East wasn’t naïve, arrogant, misguided and dangerous,” he said in a New York City hotel about thirty blocks south of the United Nations.
Stating that “there is no middle ground between our allies and those who seek their destruction,” Perry attacked the administration for discouraging direct dialogue between Israel and Palestine by proposing “indirect talks,” with the U.S. as the go-between. He faulted Obama’s comments suggesting that the two sides discuss a return to the 1967 borders and denounced the administration’s call for Israel to halt building in settlements as a decision that had “put Israel in a position of weakness.”
“Bolstered by the Obama administration’s policies and apologists at the U.N.,” Perry declared, “the Palestinians are exploiting the instability in the Middle East hoping to achieve their objective without concessions or direct negotiations with Israel.”
Perry, who has been criticized for speaking vaguely about foreign policy in prior remarks, took care to outline a series of specific steps he thought the United States should take right now, as Palestine sought statehood before the U.N. First, Perry said, America should insist that “the Oslo Accord principle of direct negotiations” be honored and that if the U.N. did not honor that principle, U.S. funding of the U.N. would be “jeopardized.” The Palestinians, too, could lose the financial aid the U.S. currently provides. He called for closing the PLO office in D.C. if Palestine was granted statehood. Lastly, Perry pressed for the U.S. to state unequivocally to countries such as Egypt and Turkey “whom we have considered allies in recent years that we won’t tolerate aggression against Israel.”
More broadly, Perry blasted the Obama administration for acting in such a way that the Middle East situation had become “destabilized.”
“We have been complacent in encouraging revolt against hostile governments in Iran and Syria and we have been slow to recognize the risks posed by the new regime in Egypt and the increasingly strained relationship between Israel and Turkey,” he remarked.
In response to questions afterward, Perry said he supported a two-state solution if there were direct negotiations between Israel and Palestine, that he backed Israelis continuing to construct housing settlements, and that he wanted Jerusalem “united under Israeli rule.”