Republicans talk tough on Iran, vie for Jewish vote

US presidential candidates meet Republican Jewish Coalition in Washington; Gingrich: I would move US embassy to J'lem.

Gingrich 311 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Gingrich 311
(photo credit: REUTERS)
WASHINGTON – Republican unity and a wall-to-wall turnout packed the Republican Jewish Coalition’s 2012 Presidential candidates forum on Tuesday. At the meeting, the would-be commanders-inchief offered up tough talk on Iran and against US President Barack Obama’s Middle East policy.
Approximately 500 RJC members attended the daylong conference in which candidates played one-up on their plans to prevent Iran from attaining a nuclear weapon and stating their support for Israel.
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Former speaker-of-the-house Newt Gingrich promised that upon election, he would immediately shake up the State Department and demand that the US Embassy in Israel be moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, garnering loud applause from his audience.
He also promised to offer the reins of the State Department to John Bolton, an announcement that was also greeted with ringing enthusiasm from his audience.
Gingrich said that he would try to restore America’s ability to carry out covert operations, particularly in Iran, and promised that, if elected, he would work to destabilize Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s regime by sabotaging the state’s fuel supply and supporting anti-regime movements.
The former speaker, who has re-emerged as a right-wing favorite after restaurant executive Herman Cain suspended his campaign, roused the crowd early on by slamming recent Obama administration remarks seen as anti-Israel.
He blasted last week’s comments by the US Ambassador to Belgium, as well as comments made by Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and a planned meeting at the State Department with “those who would censor the world on behalf of Islam.”
Criticizing what he described as a “one-sided disarmament of the Judeo-Christian civilization,” Gingrich also devoted part of his talk to domestic issues, promising to abolish the capital gains tax, repeal Obama’s health care program and re-scale the federal government.
Less than a month before the primary season kicked off, Gingrich was far from the only candidate to propose a tougher stance on Tehran.
Front-runner Mitt Romney said that he supported both covert and overt activities to push Tehran to abandon its weapons program.
“Ultimately, regime change is what’s going to be necessary,” said Romney, also garnering a standing ovation from the audience. “I will travel to Israel on my first foreign trip. I will reaffirm as a vital national interest Israel’s existence as a Jewish state. I want the world to know that the bonds between Israel and the United States are unshakable,” he added.
The former Massachusetts governor, who is seen as vulnerable to attack from the right, also emphasized his family and religious values as the driving force behind his political behavior and promised to allow states to opt out of Obama’s health care plan.
Republicans hope that although Jewish support in the past has been overwhelmingly Democratic, playing up Obama’s perceived anti-Israel sentiments might shake loose the key Jewish demographic.
Absent from the discussion was libertarian candidate Ron Paul, who has been outspoken in his opposition to foreign aid to any state – including Israel. Paul was not invited to participate in the forum.