Romney woos tea-party Christians by promising uncritical support for Israel
Republican presidential hopeful says president more concerned about Israel attacking Iran than Iran obtaining nuclear weapons. Addressing evangelical Christians, he claims Obama has been ‘disrespectful’ towards PM Netanyahu
Yitzhak Benhorin, AP/Ynet news
June 17, 2012
WASHINGTON – Mitt Romney told evangelical Christians that he’ll do “the opposite” of what President Obama has done in dealing with Israel.
Romney on Saturday told the Faith and Freedom Coalition he believes the president is more concerned about Israel attacking Iran than he is about Iran obtaining a nuclear weapon.
“He’s almost sounded like he’s more frightened that Israel might take military action than he’s concerned that Iran might become nuclear,” Romney said.
His hawkish speech was the first time he’s discussed policy toward Israel at length since becoming the likely Republican presidential nominee.
“It is unacceptable for Iran to become a nuclear nation and that we’re prepared to take any and all action necessary to keep that from happening.”
Asked about the president’s attitude towards Israel, the Republican presidential hopeful said: “Well, I think by in large you could just look at the things the president’s done and do the opposite. You consider his first address to the United Nations he castigated Israel for building settlements.”
Romney described the 1967 borders as “indefensible” and noted that Obama has been “disrespectful of Prime Minister Netanyahu.”
‘No more distance’
He stressed that if elected, his administration would “forge a strong working relationship with the leadership in Israel.”
“I would not want to show a dime’s worth of distance between ourselves and our allies like Israel. If we have disagreements, we can talk about them, you know, behind closed doors. But to the world, you show that we’re locked arm in arm.
Romney also criticized the White House for its handling of the crackdown in Syria. “Instead of watching what’s happening in Syria from a dispassionate distance, I would be leading in Syria by encouraging our friends there like the Turks and the Saudis to prove weapons to the insurgents in Syria,” he said.
Obama’s campaign accused Romney of distorting the president’s record on Israel. Spokesman Ben LaBolt says Obama has given Israel more security assistance than any other administration and has stood with Israel at the United Nations.
Romney addressed the group via video uplink from outside his campaign bus as he campaigned in Pennsylvania.
Romney to Jewish donors: ‘I get Israeli briefings’
By Ron Kampeas, JPost
June 25, 2012
Republican presidential nominee tells donors at Park City retreat that Israeli officials keep him posted on regional developments
WASHINGTON – US Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney told donors attending his campaign’s Utah retreat this weekend that he is briefed on the Middle East by Israeli government officials.
About 50 of the 700 donors who attended the retreat in Park City were Jewish, according to one in attendance.
Many of these attended a breakout session Friday afternoon on the US-Israel relationship, although between half and three quarters of the 100 donors attending the session were not Jewish.
Romney dropped in on the session, and said he had just been briefed by the Israeli ambassador, Michael Oren, speaking about, among other issues, the situation in Syria, the elections in Egypt and the effort to isolate Iran.
Romney, the former Massachusetts governor and the Republican presidential nominee, said he has such conversations with Israeli officials to be kept up to date on the region.
Such briefings are not unusual once it becomes clear who the major party candidates are.
Romney also spoke about where he believed he and Obama differed on Iran; Romney said he would be doing more to keep Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.
The Obama administration is currently part of major power talks with Iran to make its suspected nuclear weapons program more transparent, and is also encouraging the international community to intensify sanctions.
It has also made representations to Israel to dial back threats of military action, although Obama administration officials have said that all options will be used to keep Iran from acquiring a bomb. Republicans have said that making clear such threats is the likeliest avenue to an Iranian retreat on the matter.
Addressing the US-Israel session were William Kristol, a founder of the Emergency Committee for Israel which recently ran ads accusing Obama of not doing enough to stop Iran; Michael Chertoff, the Bush administration Homeland Security Secretary, who is Jewish; and Norm Coleman, the former US senator from Minnesota, who is also Jewish.
To attend the retreat, donors either had to have donated $50,000 to the campaign or had to have raised $250,000.
GOP stars such as tactician Karl Rove, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), Sen Jon Thune (R-S.D.) and Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.), the US House of Representatives majority leader, were in attendance, a sign of a unified front after a rough primaries campaign.
There was kosher food on hand, and a Shabbat dinner for Jewish attendees.
Park City was the site of the 2002 Winter Olympics, the event that Romney turned around into a success after early signs of a possible fiasco, and that shot him to national fame.
By Matthew Brooks, JTA, Opinion
June 24, 2012
WASHINGTON — When Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney told the passionately pro-Israel members of the Faith and Freedom Coalition that he would “do the opposite” of the things that President Obama has done regarding Israel, the room erupted in applause. They understood exactly what he meant because they know that the Obama administration has not strengthened the U.S.-Israel relationship. President Obama has brought that strategic alliance to its lowest point in decades.
Let’s review a little history.
President Obama began his presidency with a Middle East outreach tour that excluded Israel and had as its high point his major speech in Cairo. He told the Muslim world that Israel’s creation was the result of the tragedy in Europe (meaning the Holocaust), echoing the Muslim language that delegitimizes the Jewish state as a European implant in the region, and said that Israeli settlements were illegitimate.
The president followed up with a sustained public attack on Israeli settlement policy that was much harsher than we’d seen since the days of Jimmy Carter. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that even “natural growth” should not be permitted within Israeli towns beyond the Green Line, even in areas within or just outside of Jerusalem. The 2004 Bush-Sharon letter said that certain areas outside the 1949 armistice lines should become part of Israel in a future negotiated settlement because of “new realities on the ground, including already existing major Israeli population centers.” The Obama administration rejected the plain meaning of that letter.
When Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu agreed to an unprecedented 10-month freeze on settlement construction, the Obama administration put no pressure on the Palestinians to respond and they never came to the negotiating table during that time. At the end of the 10 months, the Palestinians insisted that the freeze continue before they would join in negotiations, and the Obama administration fully backed their demand without making any demands on the Palestinians or holding them accountable for commitments they had already made.
In March 2010, the Israeli government made a routine announcement of one step in the planning process for new homes in a Jerusalem neighborhood while Vice President Joe Biden was visiting Jerusalem. It was an indelicate slip-up, given the Obama administration’s stance on settlements.
In response, the Obama administration went full bore in condemning Israel in the strongest diplomatic terms possible. Clinton read the riot act to Netanyahu in a scathing 45-minute phone call made public by her office. Obama political adviser David Axelrod went on the weekend talk shows to call the announcement an “insult.”
The heated condemnation of Israel came as Palestinians were working toward a reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas. The Obama administration said nothing about that, saving all its venom and vitriol for Israel.
In the spring of 2011, President Obama made a speech that blindsided Netanyahu just hours before the prime minister arrived in the United States for another summit meeting. The president fundamentally changed U.S. policy by saying, “The borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps.” By setting the armistice lines as the baseline for negotiations and implying that both Israel and the Palestinians would have to “swap” land tit for tat, President Obama made the Palestinians’ intransigent, revisionist position into U.S. policy. Even leading Democrats in Congress protested the president’s words.
At the United Nations, where the United States has long defended Israel, the Obama administration has sharply criticized Israel to the international community. When the Security Council has considered anti-Israel resolutions, President Obama often has refused to defend Israel during the debate. When he has ordered a U.S. veto, his U.N. ambassador has used it as an opportunity to publicly criticize Israeli settlement policy in the sharpest of terms.
In the first three years of his term, President Obama inserted plenty of “daylight” between the United States and Israel. Only recently, when the president’s Jewish support began eroding dramatically in the polls, has the administration backed away from its cold, often belligerent treatment of Israel. The military assistance and cooperation, the diplomatic words and the other things that President Obama’s publicists are now touting are the very least that one would expect from an American president, given that the American people and Congress are such unwavering, staunch supporters of a strong Israel and a strong U.S.-Israel alliance. It’s when the words really count and when the time for action comes that the Obama administration has been woefully lacking a pro-Israel record.
Mitt Romney’s record would be just the opposite: pro-Israel and based on a real commitment to a strong U.S.-Israel alliance.
Matthew Brooks is executive director of the Republican Jewish Coalition.
Faith and Freedom Coalition
Excerpt from Wikipedia
Copied, June 24, 2012
The Faith and Freedom Coalition is an American Christian conservative …non-profit organization with an avowed commitment to “educating, equipping, and mobilizing people of faith and like-minded individuals to be effective citizens.” It promotes the pro-life cause, opposes same-sex marriage, supports limited government, lower taxes, and education reform, works to help “the poor, the needy, and those who have been left behind”, supports the free market, and supports a strong national defense including backing for Israel. In 2009, Ralph E. Reed, Jr. founded the group. He describes it as “a 21st century version of the Christian Coalition”. Reed designed the coalition as a bridge between the Tea Party movement and evangelical voters.
After serving as executive director of the Christian Coalition in the 1990s, Reed founded the Faith and Freedom Coalition in June 2009 as the successor to the former group, created in 1989 by the Reverend Pat Robertson. The organization has grown quickly with hundreds of thousands of supporters and several hundred local chapters.
The organization held its first conference in September 2010 in Washington, D.C., with prominent speakers Newt Gingrich, Karl Rove, and Bob McDonnell, the governor of Virginia.
Faith and Freedom Coalition
By Josh Glasstetter, Right Wing Watch
March 30, 2012
It wasn’t long ago that Ralph Reed was damaged goods in Republican circles, and for good reason. Reed came to national prominence as the first executive director of Pat Robertson’s Christian Coalition, beginning in 1989. However, by 1997 the groups finances were collapsing, the FEC had found that the group violated federal campaign finance laws in 1990, 1992, and 1994, and federal prosecutors were investigating allegations of financial misconduct made by the organization’s CFO. So Reed resigned and moved to Georgia to become a lobbyist.
In 1999, Abramoff [Abramoff scandal] hired Reed and ultimately paid him $1.3 million to generate opposition to legalizing video poker and a state-sponsored lottery in Alabama. The money came from the Choctaw Tribe, which runs a casino in nearby Mississippi. Reed used his extensive Religious Right contacts and engaged James Dobson and the Alabama Christian Coalition, which had a policy against being the “recipient of any funds direct or in-direct or any in-kind direct or indirect from gambling interests.” He funneled $850,000 to the group, but made sure to launder it through his longtime friend Grover Norquist’s organization, Americans for Tax Reform.
Before the wheels came off Jack Abramoff’s criminal lobbying enterprise, he described Reed to his business partner as “a bad version of us.” Abramoff, explaining the comment after being released from prison, said that Reed was “a tap dancer and constantly just asking for money.” And Abramoff knows more than a thing or two about Reed. He gave Reed his first job after college and, along with Norquist, formed what some called the “triumvirate” at the College Republican National Committee.
After the Abramoff scandal broke, Reed claimed that he had “no direct knowledge of [Abramoff’s lobbying firm’s] clients or their interests,” but the Senate Indian Affairs Committee determined that Abramoff told Reed as early as 1999 that he was taking casino money. In an interview last year with Alan Colmes, Abramoff called Reed’s denial ridiculous…
Reed went on to become the chair of the Georgia Republican Party in 2001 and ran for lieutenant governor in 2006. However, the Abramoff scandal had broken by then, and Reed “suffered an embarrassing defeat” in the primary. The New York Times described Reed as a “close associate of Jack Abramoff” whose “candidacy was viewed as a test of the effects of the Washington lobbying scandal on core Republican voters.”
In 2009, Reed founded the Faith & Freedom Coalition to help resurrect his image and stature in the movement. Faith & Freedom, which Reed described as a “21st Century version of the Christian Coalition on steroids,” is really just a Tea Party-stained version of the original, and much smaller despite the steroids.
Tomorrow morning [April 1st] in Waukesha, WI, Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum, among others (Gov. Scott Walker is listed as an invited speaker), will rally with corrupt former lobbyist Ralph Reed and the state chapter of his Faith & Freedom Coalition, which Reed created to rehabilitate his image in the wake of his deep involvement in the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal.