US & Canada

Republicans criticise Obama over Israel

Governor Rick Perry
Image caption Texas Governor Rick Perry called Mr Obama's approach "insulting"

Republican White House hopefuls have hit out at President Barack Obama's Middle East policy, as Palestinians prepare a bid for UN membership.

Texas Governor Rick Perry branded the president's policy of giving equal standing to Israeli and Palestinian grievances "misguided and dangerous".

Mr Obama is expected on Wednesday to urge Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas to drop his move for UN recognition.

The US president will also meet Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Diplomats have been scrambling to avert a UN vote on the issue, and the Obama administration has pledged to block such a Palestinian move with a veto in the UN Security Council.

'Israel thrown under bus'

Both the US and Israel say only direct talks can lead to peace, but Palestinians say years of on-off negotiations have left them nowhere. Mr Abbas says he will submit a formal bid on Friday.

The last peace talks broke down a year ago. But both Mr Netanyahu and Mr Abbas this week suggested they were willing to meet each other.

The Palestinians are seeking international recognition of their state based on the borders that existed in 1967, which would take in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip.

Gov Perry, speaking to a group of Jewish and Israeli leaders at a New York hotel on Tuesday, said it was "wrong" for President Obama to have suggested earlier this year that these boundaries should be a starting point for negotiations.

"We would not be here at this very precipice of such a dangerous move if the Obama policy in the Middle East wasn't naive, arrogant, misguided and dangerous," said Mr Perry, flanked by US and Israeli flags.

"The Obama policy of moral equivalency, which gives equal standing to the grievances of Israelis and Palestinians, including the orchestrators of terrorism, is a dangerous insult."

Mr Perry accused President Obama of a policy of "appeasement" in the Middle East. The Texas governor said his religious faith was a reason for his support of Israel.

"Both as an American and as a Christian, I am going to stand with Israel," Mr Perry told reporters.

Mitt Romney - currently second favourite to win the Republican nomination and challenge Mr Obama next year - also hit out at the president's Middle East policy.

"What we are watching unfold at the United Nations is an unmitigated diplomatic disaster," he said in a statement.

"It is the culmination of President Obama's repeated efforts over three years to throw Israel under the bus and undermine its negotiating position. That policy must stop now."

But presidential aide Antony Blinken hit back in the Wall Street Journal.

"What could actually harm US-Israeli relations, and the security of the Jewish state, is subjecting either to the vagaries of partisan politics or turning them into election-year talking points," he wrote.

Mr Obama, who is expected to face a tough re-election campaign next year, won nearly four out of five Jewish votes against Republican John McCain in 2008.

Analysts say even a small swing in support for Mr Obama among Jewish voters could make a difference in a key swing state such as Florida.