A Palestinian-American member of the audience at Thursday's CNN debate asked Republican presidential candidates how a GOP administration would help bring peace between Palestinians and Israelis. There were several problems with Mitt Romney’s response:
--Romney said Obama “went before the United Nations and castigated Israel for building settlements. He said nothing about thousands of rockets being rained on Israel from the Gaza Strip.”
In fact, Obama invoked the threat of rockets into Israel in that speech last fall. “Israel’s citizens have been killed by rockets fired at their houses and suicide bombs on their buses. Israel’s children come of age knowing that throughout the region, other children are taught to hate them," he said.
Obama has taken a tough stand on Israeli settlements. However, the Obama administration strongly defended Israel's interests twice last year at the United Nations. The United States was the only country to veto a February resolution in the U.N. Security Council calling for a halt in Israeli construction in the West Bank. The United States also pledged to veto the Palestinians' bid to join the United Nations and lobbied against the bid going forward. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hailed Obama's opposition as a "badge of honor."
--Romney said Obama “disrespected Prime Minister Bibi Netanyuahu has time and time again shown distance from Israel.” The numbers, and Obama administration rhetoric, say otherwise. The administration requested more than $3 billion in security assistance funding for Israel in 2012 — the largest such request in U.S. history, according to Andrew Shapiro, assistant secretary of state for political-military affairs. The administration also committed to implement a 2007 memorandum of understanding with Israel committing $30 billion in security assistance over 10 years, even in “challenging budgetary times” these next few years.
--In a familiar talking point, Romney said Obama “threw Israel under the bus” when he suggested the 1967 borders as the starting point for negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians, with mutually agreed on swaps. While Netanyahu was unhappy with that speech, that had been the basis of earlier negotiations -- even as U.S. presidents avoided saying so publicly. Obama insisted he simply said “publicly what has long been acknowledged privately.”