Candidates Lambast Obama over Israel Policy

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President Barack Obama's Israel policy came under strong attack from GOP presidential candidates at a gathering of Jewish Republicans Wednesday.  

Speaking before the Republican Jewish Coalition in Washington, D.C., frontrunner Newt Gingrich promised that as president he would honor a congressional law to move the U.S. embassy in Israel -- a law ignored by recent administrations.

"In a Gingrich administration, the opening day, there will be an executive order about two hours after the inaugural address. We will send the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem as of that day," the former House speaker said.

Gingrich also promised to reform the culture of the State Department and said he'd nominate John Bolton, U.N. ambassador under President George W. Bush, to lead the effort.

"If he will accept it, I will ask John Bolton to be Secretary of State," Gingrich said, drawing applause from the audience.

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney scolded Obama for not visiting America's closest ally in the Middle East.

"He visited Egypt, Syria -- no, not Syria -- Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Turkey. He even offered to meet with (Iranian President) Mahmoud Ahmadinejad," he said.

"Yet in three years in office, he hasn't found the time or interest to visit Israel, our ally, our friend," Romney charged.

The GOP attacks come just a week after Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta made comments critical of the Jewish state. 

Panetta suggested Israel was to blame for holding up peace talks with the Palestinians.

"You know the problem right now is we can't get them to the d--- table to at least sit down and begin to discuss their differences," Panetta said at the Dec. 2 Saban Forum, an annual gathering of U.S. and Israeli officials and policymakers.

"If they sit at a table and work through those concerns, and the United States can be of assistance in that process, then I think you have the beginning of what could be a process that would lead to a peace agreement," he concluded.

Republicans would like to make inroads with Jewish voters, who went for Obama by more than 80 percent in 2008. 

But they're also reflecting the anger from the GOP base, where the belief is that Israel is not getting fair treatment from Washington. 

Meanwhile, the president is reassuring Jewish supporters that his administration is committed to Israel as an ally.

"We don't compromise when it comes to Israel's security," he recently told Jewish campaign donors in New York.

Obama angered Israel's supporters earlier this year when he said negotiations over future Palestinian borders begin with lines Israel held before the 1967 Six Day War. 

Israelis call those lines "suicide borders."

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John Waage

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John Waage has covered politics and analyzed elections for CBN News since 1980, including primaries, conventions, and general elections. 

He also analyzes the convulsive politics of the Middle East.