Published December 23, 2015
Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry accused President Obama of fostering a policy of "appeasement" in the Middle East, blaming him for the standoff at the United Nations over the Palestinian bid for statehood recognition.
Diving into one of the most high-profile foreign policy disputes, the Texas governor appeared alongside Jewish leaders in New York Tuesday to pledge unwavering support to Israel and call on the Obama administration to take a stronger stance against the statehood bid.
"We are indignant that certain Middle Eastern leaders have discarded the principle of direct negotiations," he said. "We are equally indignant of the Obama administration and their Middle East policy of appeasement."
Perry called on the U.S. to approach the Middle East with a "new firmness and a new resolve." Perry criticized 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 ... if the Obama policy in the Middle East wasn't naive and arrogant, misguided and dangerous," he said.
Perry said the U.S. -- to show there are "consequences" for the action at the U.N. -- should reconsider its aid to the Palestinians and shut down the Palestinian Liberation Organization's Washington office if the vote proceeds. He also expressed support for continued settlement construction and suggested the U.S. Embassy be moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, as a nod of support for a united Jerusalem under Israeli rule.
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. 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. But Obama has been mostly silent in reiterating U.S. policy that the Palestinians recognize Israel and end terror attacks.
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. Turner was among the leaders standing alongside Perry Tuesday.
Not to be outdone, GOP contender Mitt Romney issued a statement Tuesday, strongly criticizing Obama for the Palestinian situation at the U.N.
"What we are watching unfold at the United Nations is an unmitigated diplomatic disaster," Romney said in a statement. "It is the culmination of President Obama's repeated efforts over three years to throw Israel under the bus and undermine its negotiating position. That policy must stop now. ... he must make clear that if the Palestinian Authority succeeds in gaining any type of U.N. recognition, the United States will cut foreign assistance to the Palestinians, as well as re-evaluate its funding of U.N. programs and its relationship with any nation voting in favor of recognition."
Businessman Herman Cain, also a Republican candidate, wrote an op-ed for FoxNews.com in which he said Israel has been one of the United States' "strongest allies for decades -- at least until President Obama took office."
"As president, my top foreign policy priority would be to stand united with Israel. I will not allow the Arab Spring to be the fall of Israel," Cain wrote.
"And I'll add, growing up in Georgia during the civil rights movement and graduating from Morehouse College, following in the footsteps of our most famous alum -- Dr. Martin Luther King, the Palestinians could stand to learn a lot more from Reverend King than Malcolm X. It's the radical element among Palestinians that is keeping peace out of reach."
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, but does not have a meeting scheduled with PA leader Mahmoud Abbas.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.