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      Op-Ed: Florida Primaries: Gingrich vs. Romney on Israel

      Published: Monday, January 30, 2012 2:37 PM
      The writer delineates the difference between the two pro-Israel Republican candidates on Judea and Samaria and the "Palestinian people".


      For those pro-Israel Americans who are still on the fence about which candidate to support in the Republican primaries, this particular American-Israeli would like to briefly scan some of the nuances on the campaign trail.

      With the notable exception of Congressman Ron Paul, who has harshly criticized Israel’s treatment of our Hamas-supporting neighbors in Gaza as being “like a concentration camp”, the contenders for the nomination have been considered to be staunchly pro-Israel. All support a strong stand against Iran, including the potential use of military force to end Iran’s race to develop nuclear weapons, but are the candidates really all on the same page on the main issues that concern Israel?

      Let’s examine the record. The differences become clear when they discuss “the Palestinians” and the so-called peace process.

      Former Pennsylvania Governor Rick Santorum, whose campaign has been struggling recently, was questioned by a young voter about the Palestinians right to an independent state in the West Bank (Judea and Samaria) and Santorum responded sharply, saying, “There is no Palestinian people” and defending Israel’s right to call as its own land won in a defensive war (The 1967 Six Day War).

      Similarly, Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich has referred to the Palestinians as “an invented people” that was never a nation, and, elaborating on this at an ABC News debate added, “Somebody ought to have the courage to tell the truth. These people are terrorists. They teach terrorism in their schools. They have textbooks that say 'if there are 13 Jews and 9 Jews are killed, how many Jews are left?' We pay for those textbooks through our aid money. It’s time for somebody to say:  enough lying about the Middle East.”

      Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney is on record defending Israel’s right to decide how to negotiate and has said that all disagreements between Israel and the United States should be discussed in private. He also has criticized President Obama for “throwing Israel under the bus” (a nice cliché) and said, “I will stand by our friend Israel” (another nice cliché).

      In the most recent debate in Florida, Romney criticized Obama for failures in the peace negotiations, but didn’t criticize the so-called Palestinians. In that same debate, Gingrich blasted the Palestinian leadership for enabling and/or allowing continued rocket attacks and pledged that on his first day in office, he would issue an executive order moving the Israeli Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

      The differences between the two leading candidates are actually fairly substantial. Romney has made quite a few positive statements about the importance of the USA-Israel relationship, but has been carefully avoiding taking positions that might change the “land for peace” process (actually - land for a meaningless piece of paper) and the status quo of the “two-state solution” or that might offend the Palestinian Authority. Furthermore, Romney was quite critical of Gingrich for making his “invented people” statement, saying that we shouldn’t “get ahead of our ally Israel.”

      After years of American pressure, much of Israel’s leadership is endorsing suicidal positions that would hand over its strategic heartland, in which most of the biblical sites are located, to the Hamas, Fatah, and Islamic Jihadists for an independent state. Is Romney suggesting that a true friend should let its ally commit suicide?

      On the other hand, Gingrich has, on several recent occasions, taken bold, right-of-center positions on the Middle East that often defy the status quo, sending the clear message that his actions as president would be based on a historically-correct vision of peace through strength and Israel’s right to its biblical heartland.

      The irrational need to adhere to the ridiculous land for “peace” mantra that has never worked should be carefully reexamined by all the presidential candidates. Newt Gingrich has taken a giant step in that direction and he is to be highly commended for it.