November 23rd, 2011
09:13 AM ET

Abrams: The GOP candidates and the 'Israel Pledge'

Editor's NoteElliott Abrams is former senior director for the Near East and deputy national security adviser handling Middle East affairs in the George W. Bush administration. He is now a senior fellow for Middle East studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, where he writes the blog Pressure Points.

By Elliott AbramsCFR.org

With the exception of Ron Paul, every one of the Republican candidates on the stage at Constitution Hall is a strong supporter of the alliance between the United States and Israel. In Tuesday night’s debate as in previous outings, they stated in compelling terms their understanding of why the friendship and cooperation between Israel and our country is of great value to us. For the most part they did not blink at the possibility of a military strike on Iran as a last resort and as an outcome preferable to permitting Iran to become a nuclear weapons state.

To these necessarily conditional statements–conditional because the precise situation months or years down the road is course unclear, and will depend in large part on what actions the United States takes in the interim–Mitt Romney added a specific promise. He would, he said, make a visit to Israel his first foreign trip.

This promise will be attacked by the usual suspects, from The New York Times to Democratic Party spokesmen defending the Obama Administration to Arab diplomats. And among the things they will say is that it is a gimmick.

In his nearly three years in office, President Obama has never visited Israel though he visited both Cairo and Riyadh very early on. President Bush visited Israel only in his seventh year in office, though Israelis did not much complain because he was so clearly and strongly supportive of the Jewish State year after year. President Clinton first visited in October 1994, after nearly three years in office. President Reagan never visited Israel, nor did President George H.W. Bush. President Carter visited in March 1979, after 26 months in office. Typically a president’s first visit abroad is to Canada.

So what Romney has promised would be a first. It would be a remarkable signal to the Middle Eastern states and to the Europeans that the Obama era of distancing from Israel is over. At a moment of instability in the region it would visibly restore one solid pillar: the American-Israel alliance. For the Turks wondering how far to go in their new hostility to Israel, the Iranian ayatollahs thinking about whether our pledge to stop their nuclear weapons programs is real, Jordanians and Moroccans asking if we will support moderate reform against the forces of radicalism–the list is long–the symbolic power of such a visit would be immense.

I am glad that neither Romney nor any other candidate promised to move the U.S.Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, for that is indeed a gimmick. This promise has been made many times before but once in office presidents keep postponing it and postponing it–and then they leave office. Such a pledge is simply not credible. Romney’s promise is so easy to keep that he would have to do it, as he must have known when he made it. As noted he’ll be attacked for it: he’ll be accused of pandering and of risking our relations with the Arab world. But the gesture of making Israel his first foreign trip would instantly communicate more effectively than any other that a foreign policy radically different from that of President Obama was now in place. Any Republican who replaces President Obama in 2013 should “take the pledge” and make similar travel plans.

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Topics: 2012 Election • Israel

soundoff (41 Responses)
  1. GOPisGreedOverPeople

    Just think. When the GOP regain power, they will start a war with Iran (totally unfunded of course). Then they will draft all the poor people to fight(die) in the war (just like the GOP wants) and give "no bid" contracts to the rich people. Killing two birds with one stone!!! Then we can use Iran's oil to pay for the war. And when the war is over, Iran will sell us cheap oil!!! Just like Iraq........Oh wait........Never mind.

    November 23, 2011 at 9:44 am | Reply
    • Thinker23

      WHY will anyone start a TOTALLY UNJUSTIFIED war, genius?

      November 23, 2011 at 12:42 pm | Reply
      • Awabnavi

        Like the Iraq war was TOTALLY UNJESTIFIED?

        November 23, 2011 at 9:18 pm |
    • Mycology

      I guess Saddam Hussein was a real SAINT.

      I guess he NEVER had WMD's.

      I guess he was 100% complying with international inspectors.

      I guess He NEVER massacred or genocided any of his own citizens.

      Oh , wait, all of that is untrue. He was a madman who used WMD's on his own people, defied international inspectors, and was much closer to a demon than a saint.

      November 24, 2011 at 3:41 pm | Reply
  2. DR SAAD- CALGARY- ALBERTA

    TO HELP ISRAEL WE MUST GET RED OF SYRIAN REGIEM AND STOP HIZBOALLAH WE MUST ATTACK SYRIA NOW TO CUT THE EVIL HANDS OF IRAN IN THIS REGION
    THEN WE CAN PREPARE TO GET RED OF IRAN BEFORE IT IS TOO LATE, IRAN , SYRIA AND HIZBOALLAH WITH IRAQI SHIIA ARE THE EVIL DOERS IN THIS WORLD, IRAQ IS BELONG TO IRAN , NORI AL HALEKI GAVE MONEY AND WEAPONS TO SYRIA TO KILL SUNNIS, IRAQ NORI AL HALEKI STOLE THE ELCTION FROM DR AYAD ALWAI AND HE MUST GO , THERE IS NO FREDOME OR DEMCRACY IN IRAQ, USA SHOULD NOT LEAVE NORI AL HALEKI WHEN THEY LEAVE IRAQ, WE MUST WAKE UP IRAQ IS NOT FRIENDLY TO USA THEY LIE UNDER THE NAME OF ( TAQEYA) IT IS A SHIIA WAY OF ISLAM LIES= TAQEAY SO GET RED OF NORI AL MALEKI NOW OTHER WISE A CIVIL WAR WILL HAPPEN WHEN USA LEAVE. USA MUST STAY IN IRAQ , AFGANEISTAN TO ATTACK IRAN AND SYRIA WHEN THE TIME COME. WE MUST ACT NOW

    November 23, 2011 at 9:55 am | Reply
    • GOPisGreedOverPeople

      Who's this "WE" you are talking? Is Canada going to send in "both" fighter jets? LOL!!!

      November 23, 2011 at 10:41 am | Reply
      • KMNaluthara

        WE MEANS 99%. WE ARE HERE TO SHED OUR BLOOD EITHER FOR CORPORATES, FOR BANKERS OR FOR THAT FOREIGN COUNTRY WHO LOBBIES IN THE CORRIDOR OF POWER.

        November 23, 2011 at 11:59 am |
      • Thinker23

        KMNaluthara... Can you explain how come 60-something Muslim states are unable to create a MORE POWERFUL LOBBY than that tiny foreign country considering the virtually unlimited amount of petrodollars available for them to spend in the CORRIDOR OF POWER?

        November 23, 2011 at 12:50 pm |
      • Awabnavi

        Easy – because Christians have always been anti-Muslim

        November 23, 2011 at 9:19 pm |
      • KMNaluthara

        Thinker......I am against lobbying, whether it is Muslim, christian or jewish lobbying. It is a BACKDOOR ENTRY. In a democracy opinions should be argued publicly based on national interest and human values.

        November 24, 2011 at 1:52 am |
      • Thinker23

        KMN... You did not answer my question. I did not ask for your opinion about lobbying. I've ask HOW COME 60-something Muslim states were unable to create a MORE POWERUL lobby considering almost unlimited amount of petrodollars in their disposal. Are Muslims THAT DUMB, in your opinion?

        November 24, 2011 at 5:54 am |
    • glenn robert

      You are badly confused. It is not the job of the US to carry Israel's foreign policy! Iran is not a threat to the US. We attack Iraq at the demand of Israel and now they can't live with the results.

      November 24, 2011 at 2:53 am | Reply
      • Thinker23

        False assumptions ALWAYS lead to false conclusions, bro... Israel NEVER asked the US to attack Iraq.

        November 24, 2011 at 5:56 am |
      • Ron Reynolds

        That kool aid you are drinking so heavily stains you know.

        November 24, 2011 at 8:05 am |
      • alsmeer1

        but Iran is a threat to the US. to Iran the US is Big Satan – Israel is little satan. it is the Islamic goal to wipe both from their sight. Iran already has the technology (as does russia & china) to implament a 'bomb' that could wipe out America's electric power, etc. put us back to the 19th century.
        Iran and all Islamic and communist countries are a threat to the US... as they 'conquer' other places do you think they will not try to do the same here. they have sleeper cells here already. time to wake up. Islam wants to conquer the world.

        November 24, 2011 at 9:09 am |
      • Arto

        They conned us into Iraq. Ask Abrams who was there doing the conning with his friends Wolfowitz, Feith, Perle, Rumsfeld, Chaney and beating the drum in the media the other neo-cons Kristol, Podhoretz, and Krauthammer

        November 24, 2011 at 2:56 pm |
    • KMNaluthara

      Thinker...I don’t agree with your concept that lobbying is the litmus test for intelligence. We don’t hear about German lobby in the US. Does it mean Germans are dumb?. By the way, most leaders in the muslim world are really dumb.

      November 24, 2011 at 6:47 am | Reply
      • Thinker23

        KMN... You still did not answer my question. Are you saying that the Arabs and Muslims in general do not have a problem with the US support of Israel? You've suggested that it's the "Jewish lobby" that caused it so it's reasonable to assume that the Arabs and Muslims in general would be willing to turn it around by creating a more powerful Arab lobby, especially after seeing how effective the Jewish lobby is. Are you suggesting that the Arabs and Muslims in general do not want the US to support THEM instead of Israel or, alternatively, you're suggesting that the Arabs are SO DUMB that they're unable to do it?

        November 24, 2011 at 7:07 am |
  3. j. von hettlingen

    Elliot Abrahms is keeping a hawkish eye on the U.S.-Israeli diplomatic relationship. "In his nearly three years in office, President Obama has never visited Israel though he visited both Cairo and Riyadh very early on. President Bush visited Israel only in his seventh year in office ". Well, Mr. Abrahms, make sure that Obama gets re-elected and he would certainly find time to visit Israel before his tenure expires.

    November 23, 2011 at 1:03 pm | Reply
  4. Earl

    The six who support Israel are the typical hawkish type of people Christian conservatives want. When will they learn that those ZOG clowns in our government and in Israel stop pesturing Iran and move on , Israel is suicidal let them go at it alone Ron Paul is the only one who makes sense on the whole foreign policy issue. Please listen to reason and common sense for a change.

    Vote Ron Paul 2012

    November 23, 2011 at 5:54 pm | Reply
    • Thinker23

      Let me understand... You want Israelis to allow themselves be nuked by Iran and call it "voice of reason"???

      November 24, 2011 at 5:59 am | Reply
    • Ron Reynolds

      You do know Iran has said they would wipe out Israel as would many others in the region. The moment Iran has a nuclear weapon they will become the umbrella for all the terrorist groups because no one would attack with an actual nuclear deterrent. They are extremely unstable as is most of the region. You have one small democracy in the middle who would prefer to keep to them selves. If the others are so great, why do they not use their vast wealth and resources to help one another instead of killing one another and focusing problems on Israel. Islam's goal is not to live harmoniously with the rest of the world, it is to take it over and this is why we maintain a friendship to help keep a foothold of any type in such a volitile region.

      November 24, 2011 at 8:09 am | Reply
  5. John S

    Ridiculous that we continue to prop up an indefensible piece of dirt, ignoring the turbulence it causes worldwide.

    November 23, 2011 at 6:44 pm | Reply
    • egheaded

      Finally, someone said it

      November 24, 2011 at 1:41 am | Reply
    • Thinker23

      It's even more ridiculous that there are idiots who think and this "indefensible piece if dirt" will not defend itself or that there will be no global consequences in case it will...

      November 24, 2011 at 6:02 am | Reply
  6. Cranleigh

    The big question is: should the West assist Israel in maintaining its nuclear monopoly in West Asia? On balance, I think it should but it's time we had some candid talk from Israel AND its Arab neighbours about these weapons. The Israeli-American policy of nuclear opacity makes America look ridiculous. No adminstration official would dare confirm what Ron Paul clearly described last night, 200-300 Israeli nukes. Apparently, the Arabs and perhaps even Turkey privately accept Israel's monopoly as the least of many evils. They should say so publicly for the safety of all in the region. And Israel should unequivocally commit to no first use of its nuclear weapons, including tactical nuclear weapons, instead of making unintelligible nonsense about not 'introducing' nukes to the region.

    One question: would Israel and America have no objection to a future secular Iranian regime, democratic or otherwise, going nuclear?

    No mention last night in the Republican debate of North Korea, a nation far more likely than Iran to be capable of hitting the USA with nukes in the next decade.

    November 23, 2011 at 6:50 pm | Reply
    • Thinker23

      Israel DID promise to NOT use nukes first back in the early 1970s when Prime Minister Golda Meir said just that. Further, both the US and Israel will be against nuclear Iran or any other country calling or trying to destroy Israel or someone else... regardless of it's state religion.

      November 24, 2011 at 6:07 am | Reply
      • Cranleigh

        The 1970's ended over over thirty years ago. In the last twenty, I cannot recall one clear statement from the Israeli government in simple English about its nuclear weapons program other than arcane gibberish from Shimon Peres about not 'introducing' nukes to the ME, whatever that means, hardly surprising considering that the Israelis have an official policy of opacity on their program. But that should not keep us quiet. We live in open societies in North America and Europe and discussion of Israel's nukes by our journalists, politicians and governments should be as open as possible.

        Any reasonable person realizes that the Iranian regime is a dreadful one and that Israel and the USA are democracies. Does that mean that Israel and the USA are less likely than Iran to use nuclear weapons? I can see very little proof of that. Firstly, you need to possess nukes to use them. Even if the Iranians do manage to develop a few nukes, their corrupt leaders are not at all as eager to go to heaven as many imagine. Secondly, the historical record isn't too encouraging for the self-described 'good guys'. One country has used nuclear weapons so far and it wasn't a brutal dictatorship. The disturbing possibility exists that democracies may be MORE likely than authoritarian regimes to use nukes because their tolerance of any risk to their populations is lower.

        November 25, 2011 at 7:23 pm |
      • Thinker23

        Cranleigh... I can assure yo that neither the US nor Israel are WILLING to use nuclear weapons without a valid reason. It is also more probable than not that BOTH the US and Israel WILL use nuclear weapons in case the leaders of these countries will not see any other way to defend their respective countries. IS IT CLEAR ENOUGH THIS TIME?

        November 26, 2011 at 5:44 pm |
      • Cranleigh

        Thinker23, I'm afraid you are going to have some difficulty being completely clear because, in my opinion, the situation precludes it. We can have a fair idea of the Big Five's behaviour with nukes and a murkier one with the declared nuclear states India and Pakistan who are mainly focused on each other. But we are really in the dark with Israel because that country will not even admit it possesses nukes so any statement is necessarily conjecture. I guess the Israelis must have had some informal and deniable discussions with neighbouring Arab states regarding how much they should worry. It is also generally accepted that Israel has significant independent second-strike capability through its submarines.

        December 15, 2011 at 10:36 pm |
  7. Mac Qurashi

    Let us have a policy that is beneficial ot the United States. Most of the times US interests do not coincide with the Israeli interests. Although we loudly declare to be the guardians of justice and law to the rest of the world , we ignore those proclamations when it comes to Israel's illegal actions that grabs the Palestinian lands and violates human rights.

    November 23, 2011 at 9:29 pm | Reply
    • Thinker23

      "ILLEGAL" means "in violation of the law". As long as Israeli actions do not violate any laws they are NOT ILLEGAL. Further, if you're against "grabbing Palestinian lands" SHOW THE LEGAL DEEDS proving that the lands in question belong exclusively to the Arabs. Good luck!

      November 24, 2011 at 6:10 am | Reply
  8. Renfro

    It turns my stomach to hear those like Elliot Abrams refer to the US as "our" country. Abrams is an Israel,his US citizenship is an accident of birth that's all.

    Listen let's be truthful for a change.
    American and Americans don't owe the Jews or Israel anything at all. We are in no way responsible for anything that happened to the Jews.And we have gone above and beyond all belioefe in our genorsity to the Jews of WWII, with graditude in return. There is nothing "moral" about supporting Israel and we don't support it for moral reasons. As a reading of any US presidential library paper will showl you....every US President has said support of Israel is a "domestic political consideration....meaning the Jews in the US, their lobby and Jewish political money in support of Israel.
    This has been the world longest and biggest con game...and it's been run on the US taxpayers.
    I won't vote for anyone who pledges allegiance to a foreign country and vows to spend every drop of US blood and treasure for a foreign country that has done nothing but damage the US in too many ways to list here..
    If that just leaves me with Ron Paul or writing in a name so be it. This needs to be brought to head and ended.
    Enough of our so called leaders placing a small US minority's loyalty to a foreign country ahead of America and Americans in exchange for political campaign money.
    Any American whose stomach doesnt turn when they hear Romney say he will turn US foreign policy over to Israel doesn't need to even be living in this country.

    November 24, 2011 at 1:07 am | Reply
    • Thinker23

      You should not vote for ANY candidate, genius. One of the first things the next President will do in office will be confirmation of the US support to Israel no matter WHO the elected President will be. Not because they all love Israel or the Jews but because supporting Israel is vital for the United States and it's interests.

      November 24, 2011 at 6:22 am | Reply
      • infidel

        Thnker , why so?

        November 24, 2011 at 7:28 am |
      • Thinker23

        Infidel... Consider this: If the US will stop supporting Israel the Arab states and Iran will decide to end Israel (again...) as they've tried in 1948, 1967 and 1973. Israel does not have strategic bombers, aircraft carriers and millions of troops so its options to defend itself will be rather limited. As a result, some of the richest oil fields on the planet will be turned into a radioactive desert and will become inaccessible for many centuries. This will send the world economy into a crisis of epic proportions as the prices of oil (and everything else) will increase many times. This crisis will effectively end our civilization as we know it. Obviously, it is in the vital interests of the United States and the rest of the civilized world to prevent this from happening.

        November 24, 2011 at 7:44 am |
  9. stovepipe johnson

    i think most of americans problems would solved if isreal was wiped off the map.

    November 24, 2011 at 10:54 am | Reply
    • Thinker23

      I think that way more problems would be solved if racists like you were wiped off the map.

      November 24, 2011 at 12:21 pm | Reply
    • Mycology

      Anyone who thinks the world would be at peace / perfected if X, Y, or Z people were eradicated, is obviously a racist and a pathetic excuse of a person.

      November 24, 2011 at 3:41 pm | Reply

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