WASHINGTON – The Republican Party's six presidential hopefuls pulled out all the stops Wednesday, courting the future votes of the members of the Republican Jewish Coalition in DC.
Former Speaker-of-the-House Newt Gingrich pledged that upon his election, he will relocate the US embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem; while his rival Mitt Romney vowed that Israel will be his first international stop as president.
The Republican presidential hopefuls took turns attacking US President Barack Obama's policies toward Israel, accusing him of being timid in the face of Iran's attempt to develop nuclear weapons and allowing a dangerous distance to develop between the US and its longtime ally in the Middle East.
Gingrich slammed US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta for "ordering" Israel to resume its negotiations with the Palestinians: "Can you imagine if our next-door neighbor were firing missiles at us and we said 'Oh, can we come to the table?' How about saying to Hamas: 'Give up violence and come to the table?'" Gingrich said.
Courting votes (Photo: Reuters)
"It's always Israel's fault no matter how bad the other side is, and it's got to stop," he stated.
Romney, yet again, said that Obama's actions have "emboldened Palestinian hard-liners who now are poised to form a unity government with terrorist Hamas and feel they can bypass Israel at the bargaining table.
"President Obama has immeasurably set back the prospect of peace in the Middle East," he said.
GOP hopeful Michele Bachmann said that she too will relocate the US Embassy to Jerusalem should she be elected, adding that "A Bachmann administration will recognize that Israel is the historic homeland of the Jewish people.
"My administration will fully recognize Jerusalem as Israel's undivided capital, and… will also recognize Israel's 1980 annexation of the Golan Heights and any settlements, which Israel, as a sovereign state, chooses to annex. Simply put, my administration will accord Israel the respect to which sovereign, democratic nations are entitled."
In recent years, the Republicans have been trying to win Jewish voters by casting themselves as stronger defenders of Israel than the Democrats.
The Jewish community in the United States tends to support Democratic candidates in overwhelming numbers.
AP and news agencies contributed to this report