Israel Heats Up as GOP Primary Issue
Romney signs on to defunding movement; Santorum attacks Perry
Ooh, what fun! Now that Gov. Rick Perry, the Republican front-runner, is also out front in terms of making Israel into an issue (op-ed last week, press conference today), the others are joining in. Runner-up Mitt Romney—who most people see as the only viable contender to Perry—today cast his lot with House Republicans who have pledged to cut funding to the Palestinian Authority if and when they go through with their statehood bid. And Rick Santorum, who needs to attack whenever he can lest he become an official also-ran, chastised Perry as a Johnny-come-lately on Israel. “I’ve forgotten more about Israel than Rick Perry knows about Israel,” he said. But Santorum doesn’t seem to have forgotten all the parts that Perry knows, because he didn’t really enumerate any substantive disagreements. And Santorum’s charge rings somewhat false in light of Perry’s role in stymieing this year’s Gaza flotilla, which depended upon much more deeply held connections to various Israeli elements.
A new USA/Gallup poll shows Romney closing Perry’s initially gigantic lead, but Perry still leading, 31 percent to 24 percent. Third place, at 13 percent, is Rep. Ron Paul, which suggests that barring some unforeseen development—perhaps the former governor of Alaska’s entrance?—this is going to be a Perry versus Romney contest. And while, as John Heilemann reported, Jewish donors greatly prefer Romney, and while Romney is likely more appealing to most Jews, there is not a whole lot of daylight between the two on Israel.