Israel Factor: The more hawkish, the higher they get?

See what GOP candidates say about Israel and how our panel ranks them.

By SHMUEL ROSNER
July 19, 2011 18:25
US Rep. presidential candidate Michele Bachmann

US Rep. presidential candidate Michele Bachmann 311 (R). (photo credit: REUTERS/Jeff Haynes)

 
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The Israeli Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) just released a detailed analysis of the 2012 GOP field and its views on Israel-related matters. It makes for a modest but an interesting first attempt to assess this field – and a way for us to compare the INSS evaluation with the one of The Israel Factor panel. The paper of the INSS can be read in full here, and one should be warned that it’s really no more than a description of candidate’s statements and positions on what INSS analyst Johannah Cornblatt thought relevant. What we’re doing in this post is taking some of the paragraphs dealing with the different candidates, and contrasting them with The Israel Factor ranking (complete statistics here). I’ve also added some comments at the end of each such paragraph.

Mitt Romney. Israel Factor ranking: 7.4

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INSS: Mr. Romney, who fell short in his bid for the 2008 Republican nomination, said that President Obama threw Israel “under the bus” when he called for 1967 borders to be the basis for an agreement. “He has disrespected Israel and undermined its ability to negotiate peace,” Mr. Romney said.

Rosner’s 5 cents: Romney is the Factor’s leading official Republican candidate. Read more about it here.

Michelle Bachman. Israel Factor ranking: 5.5

INSS: Ms. Bachmann, a Tea Party favorite who received 22 percent in the Iowa poll, said in a pre-campaign video released earlier this year that Israel and the United States “share the same exceptional mission—to be a light unto the nations.” An evangelical Christian, Ms. Bachmann often speaks about her religious connection to Israel. She volunteered on a Negev kibbutz in 1974, when she “came to the understanding that Israel is not merely the cradle of our faith but is the greatest strategic asset that the United States has in the region.” In an ad on her website, Ms. Bachmann says that Mr. Obama “betrayed” Israel in his Middle East policy speech.

Rosner’s 5 cents: Read 'What Happened to Bachmann in Kibbutz Be’eri.' And note that the most hawkish views on Israel don’t always translate into the highest Israel Factor ranking.

Herman Cain. Israel Factor ranking: Not yet ranked.



INSS: In an interview on Fox News Sunday on May 22, Mr. Cain reaffirmed his so-called “Cain Doctrine”: “You mess with Israel, you are messing with the US.” He said that if were elected president, he would offer Palestinians “nothing” in peace process negotiations because he is “not convinced that the Palestinians are really interested in peace.”

Rosner’s 5 cents: Yes, Cain will be included in our next survey. I’m curious to see how the panel evaluates his candidacy.

Newt Gingrich. Israel Factor ranking: 6.83

INSS: Mr. Gingrich, a polarizing figure with an established pro-Israel record, received 7 percent of support in the Iowa poll. On June 12, Mr. Gingrich told the Republican Jewish Coalition in California that if he is elected president, he will, under certain circumstances, cut off funds to the Palestinian Authority. He described Mr. Obama’s position on the Palestinian Authority and Israel as “suicidal” for Israel, and asked Congress to condemn Mr. Obama’s proposal regarding the 1967 borders.

Rosner’s 5 cents: Gingrich did better in our previous surveys. It’s possible that his diminishing chances to win also hurt him panel-wise.

Ron Paul. Israel Factor ranking: 3.17

INSS: “While President Obama’s demand that Israel make hard concessions in her border conflicts may very well be in her long-term interest, only Israel can make that determination on her own, without pressure from the United States or coercion by the United Nations,” Mr. Paul said after Mr. Obama’s Middle East policy speech.

Rosner’s 5 cents: No matter what he says, Paul can never be the candidate the panel feels comfortable with. And I don’t think Paul cares much about this.

Tim Pawlenty. Israel Factor ranking: 5.4

INSS: Mr. Pawlenty called Mr. Obama’s proposal to base a border on lines drawn before the 1967 Arab-Israeli War a “mistaken and very dangerous” demand. In an interview at the Council on Foreign Relations this June, Mr. Pawlenty said that it “breaks my heart that the president of this country treats Israel, our great friend, as a problem rather than as an ally.”

Rosner’s 5 cents: The panel is still undecided about Pawlenty, and the jumpy way it ranks him in recent months is the outcome of such indecision: 6.2, 5.8, 6, 6.28, 5.4.

Jon Huntsman. Israel Factor ranking: 5.5

INSS: A relatively moderate Republican who served as U.S. ambassador to China until recently, Mr. Huntsman has described Obama’s positions towards Israel as “hostile.” In response to Mr. Obama’s remarks on the 1967 borders, Mr. Huntsman said, “It's always been one of the basic tenets of foreign policy. Friends and allies, we let them handle their own strategy. Israel's our friend and ally.”

Rosner’s 5 cents: I’m taking a risk here but am pretty certain that Huntsman will get better marks from our panel later in the race.

Rick Santorum. Israel Factor ranking: 5.6

INSS: Santorum wrote in an op-ed on May 20, 2011, the day after Mr. Obama delivered his Middle East policy speech, that Israel has never been in more danger of disappearing and that Mr. Obama “has just put Israel’s very existence in more peril.”

Rosner’s 5 cents: Our panel is relatively consistent about him – and so are US voters.

Gary Johnson. Israel Factor ranking: 5.33

INSS: “I’ve been to Israel and the Golan Heights, and I understand the threats Israel faces from outside and within,” he said when asked about his views on the Middle East and Israel in January 2010. “I can’t summarize my position as the issues are too complex.”

Rosner’s 5 cents: It’s not very complex for an Israel Factor panel to asses a candidate who can’t “summarize” his position on the Middle East.

Thaddeus McCotter. Israel Factor ranking: Not yet ranked.

INSS: Mr. McCotter, a five-term congressman from Michigan, launched his long-shot presidential bid at the beginning of July. “Mideast peace will not result from arbitrarily and unilaterally imposed solutions that will, in consequence, only further destabilize the region,” Mr. McCotter said in a statement he issued right after Mr. Obama delivered his speech.

Rosner’s 5 cents: Not yet sure if the panel will rank him in the next survey, or the one after next.

Sarah Palin. Israel Factor ranking: 3.67

INSS: Ms. Palin, who departed from 40 years of U.S. policy when she called for an expansion of Israeli settlements in November 2009, responded to Mr. Obama’s Middle East policy speech on her Facebook page: “President Obama has in essence boxed Israel in without regard for the facts on the ground and without appreciating the fact that Israel looks across the negotiating table and sees the terrorist organization Hamas in alliance with Fatah,” she wrote.

Rosner’s 5 cents: Expansion of settlements isn’t the way to get popular with our relatively centrist panel.

Rick Perry. Israel Factor ranking: 5.8

INSS: Mr. Perry criticized Obama after the president delivered his Middle East policy speech for alienating Israel, “one of our strongest partners” in the war on terror. “President Obama is asking our Israeli friends to give up too much security and territory as a prelude to a renewed peace process,” he said. 

Rosner’s 5 cents: Perry is climbing in our Israel Factor survey. And until now he doesn’t seem like a polarizing candidate when it comes to panel evaluation.

One last comment: The INSS didn’t include the Factor’s highest-ranking Republican – Rudi Giuliani. The former Mayor of New York isn’t yet a candidate. But he might decide to run, so we think ranking him is still important.

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