(JTA) — Appearing with five fellow candidates at a Republican Jewish Coalition forum, Newt Gingrich called for “a dramatically rethought strategy for the Middle East.”
The GOP presidential hopefuls took the stage separately Wednesday, and each spoke for approximately half an hour at the 2012 RJC Republican Presidential Candidates Forum in Washington. Tackling a mix of foreign and domestic issues, speakers took turns blasting President Obama’s Middle East policies.
“This one-sided continuing pressure that says it’s always Israel’s fault, no matter how bad the other side is, has to stop,” Gingrich said.
The former House of Representatives speaker, who is leading in the Republican polls, said the U.S. needed to prepare for a “long struggle with radical Islamists.”
Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney also took aim at Obama’s handling of relations with Israel.
“He’s publicly proposed that Israel adopt indefensible borders. He’s insulted its prime minister. And he’s been timid and weak in the face of the existential threat of a nuclear Iran,” Romney said.
Speaking after Gingrich, Texas Gov. Rick Perry vowed that as president he would increase strategic defense aid to Israel. The RJC has criticized Perry via Twitter for saying that he would include Israel in his proposal to reassess all foreign aid allocations.
Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) spoke of her experience as a volunteer on a kibbutz after graduating from high school, saying that her “love for Israel and for the Jewish people deepened" as a result. She also said that she had connected with a donor who would pay for the relocation of the U.S. ambassador’s residence from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman and ex-Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, both well behind in the polls, led off the forum in the morning.
Herman Cain had been scheduled to address the gathering before he suspended his presidential campaign.
One top Republican candidate, Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas), was not invited to the forum. The RJC’s executive director, Matthew Brooks, had cited what he described as Paul’s "misguided and extreme views" as the reason for Paul’s exclusion.
Paul has called for an end to all U.S. foreign aid, including to Israel, and has said that the U.S. should try to extend friendship to Iran.
In his address to the RJC, Gingrich made news by vowing to offer the job of secretary of state to John Bolton, a hawkish former ambassador to the United Nations under President George W. Bush.