When President Obama said last week that Israel should return to its pre-1967 borders, Benjamin Netanyahu declared, "Israel will not return to the indefensible boundaries of 1967." Israel's prime minister was clearly not pleased.
The GOP was even more perturbed than Netanyahu, especially the men and women who make up the field of candidates who are either currently running or likely to run for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich called Obama's Israeli-Palestinian policy a "disaster." Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney said, "President Obama has thrown Israel under the bus." Rep. Michele Bachmann said that America would be "cursed" by God if it "rejected" Israel. A critical Sarah Palin even advised Obama to read the Old Testament.
Meanwhile, Rep. Ron Paul was also critical of Obama's Israel policy, but for entirely different reasons: "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. Unlike this president, I do not believe it is our place to dictate how Israel runs her affairs."
This is not the first time Paul has taken this position.
When Israel attacked a nuclear reactor in Iraq in 1981, almost the entire U.S. Congress voted to condemn the act, but Congressman Paul was one of the few Republicans who stood up and said Israel should not have to answer to America for how she defends herself. Republicans condemned Israel's actions in 1981 for two reasons: 1. The Reagan administration was in the process of making Saddam Hussein an ally. 2. The Republican Party had not yet decided that Israel and America's interests were identical.
Yesterday's cold warriors may have wanted to defeat communism and considered Israel an ally, but their hawkishness reflected a desire to put America first. Yesterday's Religious Right was also thoroughly anti-communist, and they also considered Israel an ally, but their politics were primarily born out of the belief that America was no longer putting God first.
Today, both groups put Israel first. Indeed, can you imagine contemporary Republicans today — especially the hawks and Christian conservatives — opposing Israel on anything?
For most conservatives during Reagan's era, supporting Israel did not mean unconditionally supporting everything Israel did. This is not true of neoconservatives.
Although Ron Paul insists that Israelis should do whatever they like concerning the threat posed by Iran to their nation, the neocons want the United States to wage a war against Iran on Israel's behalf. Ask yourself this: Whose interests are the neoconservatives putting first — America's or Israel's? Many in Reagan's Republican Party might have asked this same question, but few in Mitt Romney or Newt Gingrich's GOP would even dare to.
In the 1980s and '90s, the Christian Coalition exemplified the power of the Religious Right. During this period, the Coalition's founder Pat Robertson was regularly accused of being an anti-Semite. In 1995, prominent neoconservative Norman Podhoretz wrote, "The conclusion is thus inescapable that Robertson, whether knowingly or unknowingly, has subscribed to and purveyed ideas that have an old and well-established anti-Semitic pedigree." Judging by Robertson's writings, Podhoretz was not being unreasonable in his criticism.
But while some have said that Robertson had been an anti-Semite during the Reagan, George H.W. Bush, and Bill Clinton years, by 2008 he had endorsed the socially liberal Rudy Giuliani for president primarily because the televangelist thought the former New York City mayor was a "strong supporter" of Israel. By supporting a pro-choice and pro-gay-marriage candidate, was the supposedly conservative Christian Robertson putting God, America, or Israel first? Giuliani was also the top 2008 choice for many neoconservatives, including former Robertson critic Podhoretz, for the same reasons as the televangelist. That some on the Religious Right during the Reagan era may have been anti-Semitic is deplorable. But today's members of the Religious Right who follow Michele Bachmann and Sarah Palin — two people who would allow the latest interpretations of the Bible to dictate U.S. foreign policy — are equally so.
In response to Obama's recent comments on the Jewish state, Congressman Paul said, "Israel is our close friend," simultaneously wondering why America should even have a dominant role in dictating that nation's policies. Yesterday and today, Ron Paul's position on this controversial issue remains reasonable, consistent, and traditionally conservative, while the position of his party continues to fluctuate with the ideological and theological fashions of the day.
Jack Hunter co-wrote Rand Paul's The Tea Party Goes to Washington. Southern Avenger commentaries can be heard every Tuesday and Friday at 7:50 a.m. on The Morning Buzz with Richard Todd on 1250 AM WTMA.