Perry attacks Obama for Middle East 'appeasement'

Rick Perry

Rick Perry

US presidential candidates Rick Perry and Mitt Romney have pitted themselves firmly against the Palestinian bid for statehood this week in remarks designed to encourage pro-Israel voters to support the Republican Party.

At a high-profile press conference against a backdrop of the US and Israeli flags, to an audience mostly comprising Orthodox Jews, Mr Perry, the Texas governor, expressed anger about President Barack Obama's record on the Middle East. He said he backed a two-state solution, but one that was reached via direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.

He said Israel was the US's "oldest and strongest democratic ally in the Middle East" and criticised Mr Obama for making a moral equivalence which gave "equal standing to the grievances of Israelis and Palestinians – including the orchestrators of terrorism".

He said: "We are indignant that certain Middle Eastern leaders have discarded the principle of direct negotiations between the sovereign nation of Israel and the Palestinian leadership.

"We are equally indignant that the Obama administration's Middle East policy of appeasement has encouraged such an ominous act of bad faith.

"Palestinian leaders must publicly affirm Israel's right to exist," he added. "And to exist as a Jewish nation, a Jewish state."

Mr Perry, who said that "as a Christian" he had a "clear directive to support Israel", has emphasised his pro-Israel and pro-Jewish ties in recent weeks. But he comes from an evangelical branch of Christianity and last month hosted a prayer rally where he called for Jesus to save America.

Meanwhile, his Republican rival Mitt Romney, who visited Israel earlier this year, attempted to solidify his pro-Israel credentials. In a statement, he said the situation unfolding at the UN this week was an "unmitigated diplomatic disaster" and was the offshoot of President Obama's "repeated efforts…to throw Israel under the bus".

Both men are hoping the victory by the party in a traditionally Democratic and heavily Jewish congressional district last week will herald a similar national shift next year, when President Obama's first term in office comes to an end. The newly-elected New York Ninth District Congressman, Bob Turner, attended Mr Perry's event

Mr Perry has at least one advantage over Mr Romney, however. A web-based company called Mezuzah Store is now selling the "Rick Perry Mezuzah", although the maker claimed the move was not "taking sides" but to commemorate the Texas Mezuzah Law "which overrides the rights of condominium associations to ban mezuzahs on the doors".

    Last updated: 5:09pm, September 20 2011