Rick Perry, Mitt Romney and their GOP presidential rivals slammed President Obama's Middle East policies Tuesday while emphatically declaring their own support for Israel as the United Nations considered a bid for Palestinian statehood.
Republican front-runner Perry, the Texas governor, denounced the president's Israel policy as "misguided and dangerous," speaking to supporters in New York as the Obama administration worked a few miles away to thwart a U.N. vote to grant formal recognition to the Palestinian Authority.
Perry also accused Obama of appeasement, as did Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann, who assailed the president from the Midwest.
Perry's chief rival for the nomination, former Massachusetts Gov. Romney, issued a statement accusing Obama of "throwing Israel under the bus."
The Republican campaigns have similar goals: establish contrasts with Obama on an issue where he's struggled; chip away at American Jews' support for Democrats and prove their conservative, pro-Israel bona fides with the evangelical voters who will play a significant role in the GOP presidential primaries.
During the 2008 election campaign, Obama worked hard to reassure nervous Jewish voters that he would defend Israel as president. But he's faced doubts and criticism since then.
Perry criticized Obama's stated goal that any negotiations should be based on Israel's borders prior to the 1967 Mideast war, with mutually agreed adjustments and land swaps to accommodate population shifts and some homebuilding since 1967. Perry called that stance "insulting and naive."
Romney said, "What we are watching unfold at the United Nations is an unmitigated diplomatic disaster. It is the culmination of President Obama's repeated efforts over three years to undermine its negotiating position." He called for an end to U.S. foreign aid to the Palestinian Authority if the U.N. vote went the Palestinians' way.
A third Republican candidate, Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann, also weighed in Tuesday -- but Bachmann, also an evangelical, left religion out of it and instead issued a statement calling on Obama to prevent Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad from coming to the U.N.
"Ahmadinejad has shown himself to be an enemy not only of Israel, but also of the United States," the Minnesota congresswoman said. "This administration tried and failed to do outreach to Iran, reminding us once again that appeasement of deadly dictators is never a wise or effective strategy."
Deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes strongly defended the president's record on Israel Tuesday. "This administration could not have been a stronger friend and supporter here," Rhodes told reporters at the U.N. "What we're here to do is strongly support Israel and help work toward a two-state solution" in the best interest of both Israel and the Palestinians, Rhodes said.