The National Jewish Democratic Council (NJDC) today sharply criticized Republican frontrunners former House Speaker Newt Gingrich’s and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney’s failure to unequivocally state their views on American aid to Israel after previously stating that they would start all American foreign aid at zero. NJDC President and CEO David A. Harris said:
“It is truly shocking that after the serious concern that their pledges to zero out all foreign aid raised among Israel’s supporters, Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney failed to explain how their pledge would impact aid to Israel. Gingrich and Romney had the opportunity in front of that rarest of audiences—a group that was 100 percent Republican and Jewish—to affirm their support for American aid to Israel and to commit to the existing agreements that President Barack Obama has implemented and exceeded. But they remained utterly silent on this crucial point. On this central test of support for Israel, Gingrich and Romney failed, leaving more unanswered questions about their dedication to fully supporting a key element of the U.S.-Israel relationship.
“If Romney and Gingrich will not commit to support aid to Israel in front of such a friendly audience that overwhelmingly supports the policy, how can they be trusted do the same in front of Tea Party members who believe that no money should be used for foreign assistance? How can they not affirm to honor existing agreements with Israel that bolster its security amidst the serious threats the Jewish state faces? On this cornerstone issue for the Jewish and pro-Israel communities, Romney and Gingrich have demonstrated a lack of leadership and shown that they cannot be trusted to protect one of the major policies supported by the breadth of the Jewish community. Yet again, these GOP frontrunners demonstrate that they have a long way to go before they can cross the wide chasm separating them from mainstream American Jewish community.”
During the nationally-televised Republican debate on November 12, 2011, Romney and Gingrich both expressed support for Texas Governor Rick Perry’s irresponsible plan to start all foreign aid at zero. [Debate Transcript, Council on Foreign Relations, November 12, 2011] Perry, when asked for clarification, specifically stated that Israel’s aid would start at zero. He doubled down on this position at the Family Leader’s Iowa Forum on November 20, 2011. [NJDC Blog, November 21, 2011]
Gingrich and Romney have yet to clarify how starting foreign aid at zero would affect aid to Israel—including the 10-year Memorandum of Understanding on U.S.-Israel Aid that Obama has implemented and exceeded. Their comments and subsequent silence evoked widespread concern among pro-Israel leaders. [JTA, November 15, 2011] [The Hill, December 2, 2011] [Haaretz, December 6, 2011]
Today’s appearance in front of a Jewish Republican audience was the perfect venue for Gingrich and Romney to commit to American aid to Israel, and they disappointed. Gingrich’s and Romney’s failure demonstrates that these candidates have a long distance to go before they can cross the wide chasm separating today’s Republican Party from the vast majority of American Jews.