The former White House press secretary for the Bush administration has assailed President Obama for "pushing Israel around" and forcing the Jewish state to "make harmful, unwise concessions."
Addressing a group of dual Israeli-U.S. citizens Tuesday night at a get-out-the-vote event in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Mishkenot Sha'ananim, Ari Fleischer questioned Obama's commitment to Israel.
"I do not ever want to have a president in the Oval Office who will make us scratch our heads and wonder, 'does he or does he not have Israel's back,'" said Fleischer, alluding to President's Obama's pledge, last March, at the AIPAC Conference in Washington. "I don't want to have a president in the Oval Office who makes me wonder what next will he do to put pressure on Israel and make Israel make harmful, unwise concessions."
At Tuesday night's sparsely attended event, sponsored by relatively new iVoteIsrael organization, Fleischer urged a mostly senior crowd of about 80 people to register to vote, coming on a day two leading U.S. polls showed Obama and his Republican challenger locked in a dead heat.
"You're the size of Dayton, Ohio. You're the size of Ft. Lauderdale, Florida," Fleischer told the Israelis gathered. "You're a longer plane trip from New York from those places, but you're equally important."
Matt Brooks of the Washington-based Republican Jewish Coalition, who launched into a blistering attack of Obama in his opening remarks, noted, almost parenthetically, that Romney would be visiting Israel "in three weeks." When asked later by Haaretz for a more specific date, Brooks said he meant "somewhere between July 15 and July 30."
Though both Fleischer and Brooks trumpeted the symbolism of Romney's decision to visit Israel in this relatively late, pre-party convention stage in the presidential election season, they were strong on message but short on policy specifics.
When asked by an audience member to state Romney's position regarding clemency for the convicted Israeli spy, Jonathan Pollard, Fleischer and Brooks exchanged glances.
"I don't know his position on that," Fleischer said.
When asked whether Romney would move the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, Fleischer reminded the audience that he was not a spokesman for Romney, but was "here to support him, because I think he'd be wonderful for Israel."
"Governor Romney is on the record as saying that he would like to move the embassy from Tel Aviv to Yerusahlayim," continued Fleischer, employing the Hebrew for Israel's capital. "But he wants to consult with Israeli leaders first about the best way to get that accomplished."
After hearing some howls and interruptions from the audience, Fleischer attempted to explain:
"What Romney is saying when he says that is he's aware of the broader implications where Jordan and others and the sensitivity and whether or not such a first move would be seen as so provocative that it might not accomplish the goals that he and the Israel government want to accomplish," conceded Fleischer. "So he's hedging his bets on that one. Ultimately, I don't know what he's going to do."
Fleischer was asked whether Romney would recognize a unified Jerusalem capital.
"I don't know," said Fleischer who said he would share feedback from his visit with Romney's "team" following his return to the States. "This is one of those statements that I think when he comes here we're all going to have to listen carefully to what exactly he says."
Fleischer added: "There is a tendency in American politics for people to pull back a little bit and give themselves a little bit of leeway and negotiating room…The most important thing is to deliver…My hope is, if he doesn't intend to move the embassy, then don't say it. If you're going to do it, do it."
Fleischer and Brooks will be speaking at several local events aimed at registering the country's estimated 150,000 U.S. citizens eligible to vote in the upcoming presidential election in November.
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