Speaking to the Council on Foreign Relations yesterday morning, former Minnesota governor (and current presidential candidate) Tim Pawlenty had some harsh words for President Obama.
Taking Obama to task for mishandling the Middle East, and especially for mistreating Israel, Pawlenty said that,
President Obama treats Israel, our great friend, as a problem, rather than as an ally.
He further went on to say that,
Israeli – Palestinian peace is further away now than the day Barack Obama came to office.
Pawlenty then accused Obama of pressuring Israel, treating Israel as a problem, and not having a coherent policy in the Middle East, saying that,
Nowhere has President Obama’s lack of judgment been more stunning than in his dealings with Israel.
The president doesn’t really have a policy toward the peace process. He has an attitude. [H]e thinks Israel is the problem. And he thinks the answer is always more pressure on Israel.
He called the President’s attitude “anti-Israel,” saying
“I reject that anti-Israel attitude. I reject it because Israel is a close and reliable democratic ally. And I reject it because I know the people of Israel want peace.”
Pawlenty then outlined his own position, committing to an “America [that] stands strongly with Israel” and saying that “peace will only come if everyone in the region perceives [this] clearly.”
Perhaps due to his close ties to many in the Minnesota Jewish community, Pawlenty seemed to really understand what is truly at the heart of the Arab-Israeli conflict, saying that,
When the Palestinians have leaders who are honest and capable, who appreciate the rule of law, who understand that war against Israel has doomed generations of Palestinians to lives of bitterness, violence, and poverty – then peace will come.
Pawlenty said Israel “is unique in the region because of what it stands for and what it has accomplished,” and called Israel “a bastion of democracy in a region of tyranny and violence” and facing “the threat of annihilation.” He highlighted the democratic rights enjoyed by all of Israel’s citizens, including its 1.5 million Arabs, and called it “by far our closest ally in that part of the world.”
Pawlenty outlined his four-point approach to the conflict, committing to:
- “never undermine Israel’s negotiating position, nor pressure it to accept borders which jeopardize security and its ability to defend itself.”
- “not pressure Israel to negotiate with Hamas or a Palestinian government that includes Hamas” unless Hamas “cease[d] being a terrorist group in both word and deed” (i.e., “renounces terror, accepts Israel’s right to exist, and honors the previous Israeli-Palestinian agreements”).
- “ensure our assistance to the Palestinians immediately ends if the teaching of hatred in Palestinian classrooms and airwaves continues,” to ensure that “incitement must end now” and prevent American dollars from funding brainwashing and the perpetuation of hatred and conflict. (Incidentally, to my knowledge, Pawlenty is the first major candidate to even discuss the harm that the persistent teaching of hatred in Palestinian society is causing to its children and the prospects for peace, and the American role in enabling and funding that “education.” And for that I salute him.)
- “cultivating and empowering moderate forces in Palestinian society,” with the aim of developing Palestinian “leaders who are honest and capable,” to bring about peace with Israel.
Pawlenty also showed a very thorough understanding of the intertwined nature of the Middle East, discussing the inter-dependencies of Syria, Hamas, Hezbollah, and Iran, and saying that,
The fall of the Assad mafia in Damascus would weaken Hamas, which is headquartered there. It would weaken Hezbollah, which gets its arms from Iran, through Syria. And it would weaken the Iranian regime itself.
Speaking more generally on the Middle East, Pawlenty called the governments of Iran and Syria “enemies of the United States,” saying they are “directly hostile to America,” and called Iran’s regime a “pariah.”
He called for “more forceful sanctions” on Syria, and said “Bashar al-Assad must go.”
On Iran, he said the “fall of the mullahs … is the ultimate goal we must pursue,” and the United States must
“ratchet up pressure and speak with clarity. More sanctions. More and better broadcasting into Iran. More assistance to Iranians to access the Internet and satellite TV and the knowledge and freedom that comes with it. More efforts to expose the vicious repression inside that country and expose Teheran’s regime for the pariah it is.”
He called for the administration to
“enforce all sanctions for which legal authority already exits. We should enact and then enforce new pending legislation which strengthens sanctions particularly against the Iranian Revolutionary Guards who control much of the Iranian economy.”
He also called for “more clarity when it comes to Iran’s nuclear program” and the willingness of the current administration to keep all of its options open, asking “are all the options still on the table or not?”
Ultimately, Pawlenty accused President Obama’s administration of a lack of “moral clarity” and of ignoring the “lesson of history.” He said the administration has
“sought to cozy up to dictators just as their own people rose against them. It downplayed our principles and distanced us from key allies.”
All in all, this was a strong speech, establishing a strong and consistent policy approach for Pawlenty to the Middle East as a whole, and to relations with Israel specifically. We shall have to wait and see whether the American electorate is prepared to embrace a “moral stance … guided by our principles.”
To read the speech in its entirety, please click here.
[Image Courtesy of: Wikipedia]
Let us not forget that this is the same Tim Pawlenty who as Minnesota House Majority Leader suggested that Jewish members and other members who are offended to strongly worded Christian prayers opening House sessions could leave the House floor.
Great article, Jenna. Pawlenty’s understanding of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict is so much richer and more nuanced than Obama’s that it’s embarrassing. It may be an inconvenient truth for liberal Jews, but Republican candidates have an appreciation for what Israel faces that seems to be almost totally absent from the Democrat mindset.