I’ve written before about Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s close attachment to Israel. It’s not every politician who mentions Israel in his kickoff speech or goes to the attorney general to encourage him to use legal means to disrupt an assault on the Jewish state (in this case, the second flotilla).
Perry has been a consistent critic of President Obama’s Israel policy. In May he issued this press release in response to Obama’s Arab Spring speech: “President Obama’s speech today continues a misguided policy of alienating our traditional allies, in this case Israel, one of our strongest partners in the war on terror. As someone who has visited Israel numerous times, I know that it is impracticable to revert to the 1967 lines. President Obama is asking our Israeli friends to give up too much security and territory as a prelude to a renewed peace process.”
Obama’s spinners will scream that Obama wasn’t telling the Israelis to accept the 1967 lines, but Perry has it exactly right: Perry slammed Obama for attempting to cajole Israel into accepting an inferior bargaining position, namely using the 1967 lines as a ”prelude” to peace talks. Also note the use of the term “1967 lines” rather than Obama’s “1967 borders.” The latter is a misnomer, as we know, a made-up term for the 1949 Armistice lines intended to convey finality or the force of law. Perry uses “lines,” reflecting his understanding that this was simply a stopping point after the Arab war on Israel ended in 1949.
Perry also can point to an award and trip in 2009:
Gov. Rick Perry has accepted the Defender of Jerusalem Award, given to public figures who have demonstrated support for the state of Israel.
Perry . . . also met with President Shimon Peres, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and business and academic leaders during his trip.
“I have long supported the right of a Jewish state to exist in the Middle East and firmly believe in the protection and preservation of democratic states in that part of the world,” Perry said. “After visiting several sacred and historic sites, meeting with business, civic and government leaders and seeing the day-to-day lives of the people on my trips to Israel, I am even more convinced that a safe, secure Israel is an essential part of stability in this part of the world.” . . .
Perry has made previous trips to Israel. He emphasizes business connections between Israel and Texas through the Texas-Israel Chamber of Commerce, his office said.
Texas is Israel’s fourth-largest trading partner.
That’s right — there is a Texas-Israel Chamber of Commerce. The Web site explains: “The Texas-Israel Chamber of Commerce is a private, not-for-profit business organization whose aim is to boost the economies of Texas and Israel by helping member companies develop important business relationships with each other and explore new market opportunities. The Chamber is strongly supported by Gov. Rick Perry of Texas as well as by Israel’s Ministry of Industry, Trade, and Labor because both parties believe there are many opportunities for collaboration, especially in high-tech industries. Our goal is to earn a reputation as the most successful and effective bi-national business organization in the United States.”
Back in 2007 Perry had this to say about the Texas-Israel relationship: “I want Texas to become the preferred location for Israeli companies doing business in the U.S. Like Texas, Israel has a long history of growing new technology companies through partnerships that include universities, government and private investors and entrepreneurs. Strengthening relationships between these two ‘Lone Star States’ will benefit our respective economies and increase understanding.”
What does all this tell us? First, Perry’s attachment and views on Israel were formed long before he had a presidential run in mind. (His staff points to his years in the Air Force and interaction with the Israel Defense Forces as formative.) Second, he views Israel as an asset, not a liability. The relationship to him is not simply a function of the geopolitical problems in the Middle East but stems from common values and shared political and economic interests. Third, he knows Israel and knows Israelis. No one has to convince him about the Jewish state’s geographic vulnerability or its ethnic diversity.
Perry has a way to go in demonstrating gravitas and command of a range of critical policy issues. He’s going to need to spruce up his rhetoric and elevate his tone. But he should have no trouble whatsoever convincing friends of Israel (including the legions of pro-Israel conservative Christians) that he is a solid friend of Israel and would be a trustworthy guardian of a robust U.S.-Israel relationship.