Texas Governor Rick Perry stood out Wednesday morning at his speech to leaders of religious Jewish and pro-Israel organizations at the W hotel near Union Square in Manhattan. Standing in front of a group of bearded, mostly yarmulke-wearing men—and they were almost all men—Perry emceed the event, speaking first and then introducing a string of increasingly minor figures.
The theme of Perry’s speech was that everything bad in the Middle East is Obama’s fault. His top concern was the Palestinian request that the UN recognize their state. “We would not be here today at the precipice of such a dangerous move if the Obama policy in the Middle East wasn’t naïve, arrogant, misguided and dangerous,” said Perry. The Obama administration, of course, has been working to convince the Palestinian Authority not to press ahead with that request, and will veto the UN resolution if it comes to a Security Council vote. So it’s not clear what a President Perry would have done differently, or more effectively. Perry said Obama has “failed to insist” that the Palestinians recognize Israel’s right to exist and that it cannot declare statehood unilaterally. But the Obama administration does, in fact, hold those two positions. Likewise Perry asserts that the United States must prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, as if the Obama administration had a policy of letting them do so.
Where Perry does substantively differ from Obama is the unbalanced way he would use America’s financial power to pressure various actors. Like Obama, Perry never dares mention the billions of dollars in US aid that flow to Israel nor does he suggest that those monies could ever be jeopardized by Israeli stubbornness. But Perry did say that the United States should stop paying its dues to the UN if it approves the Palestinian statehood resolution and withdraw funding for the Palestinian Authority if it moves ahead with the resolution. Perry also complained that Obama did not provide sufficient support to Iranian protesters and implied that the regime would have been overthrown if he had.
As Ben Smith of Politico notes, some of the hardliners at Perry’s speech—including deputy speaker of the Israeli Knesset Danny Danon, who spoke after Perry—oppose a two-state solution and think Israel should annex the West Bank entirely. Perry, did not adopt that position, saying in response to a question that he supports a two-state solution. But, his general reflex was to answer every question with the most right-wing position possible. For instance, when asked whether Israel should be permitted to continue building settlements, he said, “I think so.” He also said he is “for Jerusalem being united under Israeli rule,” and for moving the US embassy there.