The GOP presidential hopefuls, minus Ron Paul, will attend the Republican Jewish Coalition's forum next week (Photo: RJCHQ.org)
Soon after Republican presidential candidates Rick Perry and Mitt Romney suggested in a debate that U.S. foreign aid--including to Israel--should start at zero, campaign statements were issued by the Democratic Party boasting about their commitment to Israel while the GOP candidates quickly clarified their positions. Next week, in a forum organized by the Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC), the GOP candidates will seek to fight what they call Democratic "smears" by highlighting their devotion to Israel.
And once again, the debate on Israel will center around which political party can shower the country with more praise and commitment to funding, not on whether it's moral or intelligent to continue to fund Israel.
When seven of the top Republican presidential candidates gather next week at a forum hosted by the Republican Jewish Coalition, they will "unequivocally put to bed the political smears" regarding aid to Israel that have been promulgated by the Democratic National Committee and Rep. Debbie Wasserman Shultz (D-Fla), according to RJC Executive Director Matt Brooks.
In an interview earlier today, Brooks gave me a preview of what to expect at the RJC's 2012 Republican Presidential Candidates Forum, which is scheduled to take place on Wednesday of next week at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center. The event will feature remarks and speeches by Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), Herman Cain, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, Amb. Jon Huntsman, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, former Gov. Mitt Romney and former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.). (Note that Texas Rep. Ron Paul, no good friend of Israel, will not be in the house.)
Each of the candidates, Brooks said, will make an effort to "put to bed the political smears by the DNC and Debbie Wasserman Shultz that the leading Republicans want to cut aid to Israel."
There are two takeaways, none of them surprising, from the news of the RJC forum.
One is that the elite debate in the U.S. over Israel remains narrow, one-sided and only concerned with what Israel wants, human rights be damned. And the RJC, like the Democratic Party, is committed to keeping the debate that way--to the point where they are actively shutting Ron Paul out of the forum because the RJC "rejects his misguided and extreme views" on Israel, as Kredo reported in an update to the above piece.
The second takeaway is related, in that the critical importance of money in elections is a major reason why there is not an open debate on Israel. The GOP is trying to make a play for Zionist donor money that has traditionally gone to the Democratic Party. Although they have little substance to go on, the Republican presidential candidates will try to paint Barack Obama as anti-Israel to peel away critical funding from Obama's election campaign. There is no room to question Israel when it's time to please your donor base.
The Obama team is clearly worried that the president's early rhetoric on settlements is coming back to bite them, and that's why they have dispatched Wasserman Schultz to rally the Democratic Zionist troops who will fill Obama's coffers.
The worry is what prompted Obama to visit New York last night and tell campaign donors at the chairman of the American Jewish Congress' home that:
this administration has done more for the security of the state of Israel than any previous administration...We don't compromise when it comes to Israel's security ... and that will continue.
Obama collected $300,000 from last night's fundraiser, and surely Romney and Gingrich want to make a play for donors who may have concerns about Obama's past rhetoric on Israel. But no matter who wins the 2012 election, the fact is that right-wing Zionist money will have played a substantial role, as it always does. Expect another four years of no-questions-asked aid to Israel as illegal colonies expand in the West Bank.