Republicans battle over who is Israel's biggest supporter

By Jessica Elgot, December 8, 2011
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Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, the front-runner alongside Mr Romney, said he would move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, the front-runner alongside Mr Romney, said he would move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

US Republican presidential candidates last night battled over who could declare the strongest support for Israel, all pledging to strengthen the bond between the two countries.

Addressing the Republican Jewish Coalition, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney said his first foreign trip as president would be to Israel.

Referring to President Barack Obama, Mr Romney said: “He visited Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Turkey. He even offered to meet [Iranian president] Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Yet in three years in office, he hasn't found the time or interest to visit Israel, our ally, our friend.

"In his inaugural address to the United Nations, the president chastised Israel but had almost nothing to say about Hamas launching thousands of rockets into Israel's skies.

"President Obama has immeasurably set back the prospect of peace in the Middle East.”
Republicans believe that President’s Obama’s Middle East policy is a way to draw in Jewish voters, who overwhelming vote Democrat.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, the other front-runner alongside Mr Romney, said he would move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

In the latest poll, 51 per cent of Jews approved of the way Mr Obama is handling his job.

Other candidates at the debate included Texas Governor Rick Perry, former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum, former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman and Michele Bachmann. One candidate, Ron Paul, was not invited, because of his perceived lack of support for Israel. Mr Paul has criticised Israel’s operations in Gaza and has called for foreign aid to the country should be cut.

RJC director Matt Brooks called his views “misguided and extreme, adding: “Inviting Paul to attend would be like inviting Barack Obama to speak.”

Governor Perry backtracked on a previous promise to “zero out” foreign aid, including to Israel, promising that defensive aid would increase.”

Ms Bachmann said President Obama had "emboldened Palestinians to seek statehood at the UN."

She added: “I guarantee you without any reservation: I will never call for dividable Jerusalem."

Last updated: 1:12pm, December 8 2011