Rick Perry Courts Jewish Taliban


Perry poses for a photo with a supporter after a news conference in New York, Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2011. | AP Photo

Perry held a press conference  with pro-Israel hardliners in New York City. | AP Photo Close

 

By MAGGIE HABERMAN | 9/20/11 4:19 PM EDT   Updated: 9/20/11 8:18 PM EDT
No one running for president in 2012 has been to Israel more often than Rick  Perry—and that includes Barack Obama. The Texas governor has not only  traveled there frequently, he’s written about protections for the Jewish state and denounced Obama for his  Mideast policy.

Never was his longstanding connection to Israel clearer than Tuesday, when he held a press conference with pro-Israel hardliners in New  York City, against the loaded backdrop of the coming push at the United Nations  for Palestinian statehood.

“It is time to change our policy of appeasement toward the  Palestinians to strengthen our ties to the nation of Israel, and in the process  establish a robust American position in the Middle East characterized by a new  firmness and a new resolve,” Perry said, criticizing President Obama as lax in  his approach.

“As a Christian, I have a clear directive to support Israel, so from my  perspective it’s pretty easy,” he said when asked about any theological  implications of his support for Israel. “Both as an American and as a Christian,  I am going to stand with Israel.”

Yet if Perry has essentially become a Zionist over the years, he’s one  without many American Jews surrounding him.

At best, he’s had a minimalist relationship with national Jewish groups,  multiple sources said: until he began meeting with top Jewish leaders over the  past week, his outreach had rarely gone beyond Texas borders. At a moment of  intense focus on the small Jewish vote and an influential group of Jewish  donors, Perry is still struggling to translate his interest into Jewish votes as  he seeks to explain his views on both Israel and his own faith.

“The Jewish community often has had questions about some things he says,” said Alan Sager, a former county GOP chairman in Texas who is Jewish and who has  known Perry for years. That includes, he said, things like the massive August  day of prayer Perry set up long before he decided to run for  president.

“My wife, both of [us]…don’t see any problem with what he’s done. It’s fine  with me. He can be whatever he wants about his religion,” Sager said. “But  that’s obviously not the prevailing feeling in the Jewish community.”

Perry’s focus on Israel is a reflection of the small nation’s ever larger  role in Republican politics—evangelical Christians and defense hawks care deeply  about Israel’s well being, enough to make a pilgrimage there an  all-but-requisite stop in a GOP presidential primary. Yet the governor’s  interest in the issue predates his presidential ambitions, tracking back two  decades to early in his career when he made trade missions to Israel as Texas  agricultural commissioner.

He referred to those trips, which began in 1991, on his first outing in New  Hampshire in August when he was approached by a pro-Israel voter.

“I love Israel,” Perry said, lingering on each word. “I lead trade missions  to Israel.”

During a 2009 visit there, he focused on his personal history in the Jewish  state.

“We have a connection that goes back many years,” Perry said at the time,  according to the Jerusalem Post. “And Israel has a lot that we can learn from,  especially in the areas of water conservation and semi-arid land – Israeli  technology has helped us a lot in dealing with drought.”

Read more: http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0911/63970.html#ixzz1YXjffHfz

1 Comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.