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Santorum attacks Obama on Israel, as Obama predicted

March 06, 2012|By Seema Mehta | Los Angeles Times
  • Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum signs autographs at a campaign rally in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio.
Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum signs autographs at… (David Maxwell / European…)

Reporting from Miamisburg, Ohio — Against the backdrop of a key gathering of the United States' pro-Israel lobby in the nation's capital, Rick Santorum on Monday delivered a forceful rebuke of President Obama's policy in the Middle East.

Santorum implied a connection between the world view of the president and the Islamic world. After saying that a majority in the Islamic world or the Middle East didn't believe in the Holocaust and therefore did not recognize Israel's right to exist, Santorum said Obama also fails to understand Israel's special status.

"We have a president who doesn't recognize the historic roots of the state of Israel, where they are, what they are. He never mentions it, never talks about it," Santorum said. "He never talks about the basis for the justification for the state of Israel. All he talks about is some sort of solution that has to be pushed for. Of course that solution always seems to favor everyone but Israel. He consistently undermines Israel on every front."

Santorum, who was to address the American Israel Public Affairs Committee conference Tuesday, also repeatedly railed against Obama's handling of Middle East policy, saying the president is naive in his understanding of how seriously Iran is trying to build a nuclear weapon.

On Sunday, Obama acknowledged in his speech to AIPAC that the U.S. and Israel may not agree on every issue, such as at what point to consider military action against Iran. But he said the two allies share an unbreakable bond and agree on "the big things." Obama offered a spirited defense of his record on Israel and encouraged the AIPAC members to give weight to his deeds, not to attacks from politicians, who he predicted would try to distort his administration's stalwart support of Israel.

Santorum's claim that Obama "never talks" about Israel's origins seemed at odds with the president's speech. Obama, whose great-uncle helped liberate a concentration camp, devoted a good bit of his remarks to Israel's founding and its right to its historic homeland. He also cautioned against a rush to military action, arguing that international sanctions and pressure against Iran were working and weakening the government in Tehran.

But Obama also reasserted that Israel had the right to defend itself from any threat and that America would use all options, including military force if needed, to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.

He hit back at Republican statements that questioned his commitment to Israel.

"So there should not be a shred of doubt by now -- when the chips are down, I have Israel's back," Obama said. "Which is why, if during this political season you hear some questions regarding my administration's support for Israel, remember that it's not backed up by the facts. And remember that the U.S.-Israel relationship is simply too important to be distorted by partisan politics. America's national security is too important. Israel's security is too important."

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