PolitiFact, the Tampa Bay Times political rhetoric watchdog, gives the Obama reelection campaign its toughest rating — "pants on fire — for claiming some GOP candidates want to "zero out" aid for Israel.
Here’s the Obama campaign claim:
Republican candidates for president Mitt Romney, Rick Perry, and Newt Gingrich all say they would cut foreign aid to Israel—and every other country—to zero.
Stand up to this extreme isolationism and join the call to reject the Romney-Perry-Gingrich plan.
It’s true that the the proposal, offered initially by [Rick] Perry and then seconded by [Newt] Gingrich and [Mitt] Romney, would reduce aid to zero, but only temporarily (and theoretically) as a starting point for discussions about what the final level should be, not an end point. As Perry put it, "And then we’ll have a conversation." The new policy could just as easily leave Israel with higher funding rather than lower.
In addition, to varying degrees, the candidates pledged that they personally would either advocate "substantial" funding for Israel (Perry), an exemption from the policy for Israel (Romney), or an automatic waiver due to agreements already in force (Gingrich). None of the candidates actually said he supported making Israel’s funding level zero.
The Republican Jewish Coalition calls on the campaign and the DNC, which has echoed the charge, "to immediately end this dishonest campaign to mislead American Jews."
Score one for the RJC. Making the distortion more egregious is the fact that there is real, nonpartisan pro-Israel concern with the candidates’ proposals to cut aid. (Rick Santorum and Jon Huntsman, it should be said, have rejected the Perry proposal.)
Here’s a break down of the pro-Israel concern:
- Israel’s goodwill with other nations is wrapped up in the overall foreign aid package;
- Foreign aid keeps at bay tendencies in some countries to join anti-Western and anti-Israel hostilities;
- Isolationism is isolationism. Today it’s not Israel, tomorrow it could well be.
- Breaking agreements is bad for business; Israel accrues fiduciary benefits (loan guarantees, lower interest on loans) from guaranteed assistance, and getting it early in the year. Suspending it for renegotiation would gum up a lot of financial planning for Israel’s defense sector. (As PolitiFact notes, this caveat does not apply to Gingrich, who would keep in place existing agreements.)
- Finally — singling out Israel as untouchable while jettisoning, say, Greece or Egypt — is bad for U.S. Jews.
That’s a lot for Dems to work with. Why go for an outright — or as PolitiFacts puts it, "ridiculous" — distortion?