— by Jason Attermann
This weekend, leading Republican presidential candidates Texas Governor Rick Perry and former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney called for zeroing out the foreign aid budget, which includes vital aid to Israel that maintains its Qualitative Military Edge.
Reactions from the NJDC, White House, DNC, Wexler, Levine and Bloomfield follow the jump.
National Jewish Democratic Council
On Monday, the National Jewish Democratic Council organized a petition to send a clear message to the Republican Party that zeroing out aid to Israel is not acceptable.
The White House objected the proposal, citing instances in which President Barack Obama’s support to Israel-including record-breaking assistance above and beyond the 2007 Memorandum of Understanding — played a crucial role in defending the Jewish state. When asked about Perry’s and Romney’s policy to start aid at zero, Principal Deputy Press Secretary Josh Earnest said:
Well, I can certainly say that is not an approach that this administration has taken. There are a number of countries where the United States directly benefits from having a role in those countries, and that we can certainly help-that the provision of civilian assistance is critical to the success of promoting American interests and serving American interests in countries around the world.
The first one that comes to mind is obviously Afghanistan. But the other example that’s been talked about is Israel, and that certainly one of the things that the President has done is strengthened our ties with that country, and provided significant assistance in the form of the Iron Dome project and others that are critical to Israel’s security.
So these are the kinds of-it’s the President’s view that this is an appropriate use of government resources, particularly when we’re in the time when the federal government has to tighten-we have to tighten our belts, and we need to scrub the budget, go line by line to look for opportunities where we can reduce the budget and cut the budget. But we can’t do it at the expense of ensuring that our interests are well represented and well promoted all around the world….
I can say that it’s an approach that’s entirely different than the one that President Obama has pursued.
Democratic National Committee
Democratic National Committee Chair Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) rebuked the candidates:
I’m aghast that the leading Republican contenders for President tonight, including Mitt Romney, pledged to zero out the foreign aid budget including the traditional and vital support the U.S. has provided the Jewish state of Israel for its security. I cannot think of a more irresponsible, risky or deplorable position towards our most important friend and ally. That Mitt Romney and these candidates would sacrifice the security of the state of Israel for an applause line at a debate and to appeal to the far right wing Tea Party faction of the Republican base, shows that not a single one of them has what it takes to be Commander-in-Chief.
Haaretz’s Natasha Mozgovaya reported on former Representative Robert Wexler’s (D-FL) press conference, in which he called the candidates’ position “troubling.”
‘Romney was torn between two constituencies. He had an opportunity to appease the Tea Party constituency. On the other hand, he knew those who support Israel would feel differently – and he made his choice,’ Wexler explained.
For almost half an hour, Wexler lashed out at the Republican presidential hopefuls’ approach. ‘What is the most troubling in the position the Republican candidates took with such enthusiasm, is the fact they ignored the memorandum of understanding with Israel in 2007 that America agreed to provide $30 billion of military assistance to Israel in 10 years, and now we are in the third year of it,’ he said.
‘They either ignore it or intend to violate it. This memorandum of understanding is sacrosanct – and they have no intention to implement it or strengthen it as President Obama did. Ideas to minimize it, relocate it, zero it out are unfortunately designed to put the foreign aid on shakier ground, and it’s unacceptable. It particularly sends disturbing and dangerous message to nations like Iran. If you zero out the foreign aid to other countries, the aid to Israel is unsustainable,’ he added.
He further warned of the dire consequences America and Israel would face if Israel’s foreign aid was cut as proposed.
Former Representative Mel Levine (D-CA) questioned Romney’s agreement with Perry’s suggestion to zero out foreign aid, asking, “Is this his idea of how the U.S. should increase needed support for Israel?”
Gov. Romney recklessly and inaccurately misrepresents President Obama’s record of leadership in foreign policy in general. His disdain for the President Obama’s foreign policy conveniently ignores the president’s leadership in building international coalitions which have imposed exceptionally stiff sanctions on Iran….
And, ironically, in terms of inventing his own facts, the core policies Romney advocates have already been accomplished by President Obama. (Perhaps the former Governor has not been paying attention.) For example, Romney argues that current sanctions against Iran are weak and specifically states that ‘if there ever was a possibility of gaining the Kremlin’s support for tougher sanctions against Tehran … President Obama foreclosed it.’ But he fails to recognize that President Obama succeeded, where others had failed, in obtaining both Russian and Chinese support for international sanctions against Iran, sanctions as a result of the president’s leadership are the strongest that have been obtained by any U.S. president.
In writing about this topic, The Jewish Week’s Douglas Bloomfield made an interesting observation about the backpedaling statements issued by the Romney and Perry campaigns:
[M]ost revealing, neither candidate pledged to maintain the current level of U.S. aid to Israel under the agreement signed during the Bush Administration and extending beyond the end of the term of the president to be elected next year.