NEW YORK — Wading into a tense foreign policy dispute, Republican presidential hopeful Rick Perry on Tuesday criticized the Palestinian Authority's effort to seek a formal recognition of statehood by the U.N. General Assembly and assailed the Obama administration's broader policies in the Middle East.
In a 10-minute speech in New York, Perry pledged strong support for Israel and criticized President Barack Obama for demanding concessions from the Jewish state that Perry says emboldened the Palestinians to seek recognition by the U.N.
"We would not be here today at this very precipice of such a dangerous move if the Obama policy in the Middle East wasn't naive and arrogant, misguided and dangerous," Perry said. "The Obama policy of moral equivalency which gives equal standing to the grievances of Israelis and Palestinians, including the orchestrators of terrorism, is a very dangerous insult."
Perry also criticized the administration's belief that any negotiations should be based on the borders Israel had before a 1967 war that expanded the Jewish state. Perry called that stance "insulting and naïve."
In a statement before Perry spoke, GOP rival Mitt Romney called the jockeying at the United Nations this week an "unmitigated diplomatic disaster." The former Massachusetts governor accused Obama's administration of "repeated efforts over three years to throw Israel under the bus and undermine its negotiating position."
"That policy must stop now," Romney said, calling on Obama to unequivocally reaffirm the U.S. commitment to Israel's security and a promise to cut foreign assistance to the Palestinians if they succeed in getting U.N. recognition.
Both Perry and Romney said the U.S. should reconsider funding for the U.N. itself if the global body recognizes a Palestinian state.
These and other Republican candidates are intent on showing they stand strongly behind Israel, an effort to appeal to Jewish voters and donors who play a pivotal role in presidential elections. Thus, Perry and Romney are seeking part of the spotlight as the Palestinians push for statehood this week at the U.N.
The U.S. has promised a veto in the Security Council, but the Palestinians can press for a more limited recognition of statehood before the full — and much more supportive — General Assembly. The Obama administration has pushed hard for countries around the world to block the Palestinian bid, and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Monday there was still time to avert a divisive showdown.
Obama has been criticized by Republicans and many pro-Israel activists for seeming to push the Jewish state harder than the Palestinians to make compromises to achieve peace. Among other things, Obama has called on Israel to cease building housing settlements in the West Bank and to negotiate the scope of the Palestinian state using 1967 borders as a starting point — a diplomatic position the U.S. has long maintained but one that has never before been explicitly embraced by a U.S. president.
Complaints about Obama's Israel policy helped a Republican, Bob Turner, win a special election in a heavily Jewish and Democratic New York congressional district last week.
"It's vitally important for America to preserve alliances with leaders who seek to preserve peace and stability in the region," Perry said. "But today, neither adversaries nor allies know where America stands. Our muddle of a foreign policy has created great uncertainty in the midst of the Arab Spring."
Obama is also in New York on Tuesday for meetings on the sidelines of the General Assembly. He planned to meet later in the week with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
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