Newt Gingrich Rips Panetta's Israel Policy Speech

GOP frontrunner didn't like Panetta pressuring Israel to "get to the damn table" for peace talks.


Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich continues to rail against the Obama administration for its Israel policy, saying it is "actively and materially harming Israel" after a speech by the administration's Pentagon Chief Leon Panetta.

In a post on his campaign website yesterday, Gingrich attacked the three pillars of U.S. policy toward the Middle East that Panetta laid out in his speech at the Brookings Institution on Friday, suggesting the policies are actually hurting, rather than helping.

Gingrich's position is no surprise, as the GOP 2012 candidates have taken turns bashing most areas of Obama's policy overall, and particularly foreign policy regarding Israel.

And today, the major candidates—except for Ron Paul, who believes the United States should cut aid to Israel and let it handle its own affairs—are expressing their take at the Republican Jewish Coalition's 2012 Republican Presidential Candidates Forum in Washington.

Earlier Tuesday, Gingrich reaffirmed his call for the resignation of Howard Gutman, the U.S. Ambassador to Belgium, over remarks that appeared to blame Israel's policies for anti-Semitism in the Middle East.

[Read why Ron Paul's foreign policy makes sense (or not).]

In remarks last week, Panetta said the "administration has pursued and achieved unprecedented levels of defense cooperation with Israel to back up our unshakable commitment to Israel's security."

But Gingrich argued the United States is actually undermining Israeli security by pressuring the nation to make concessions to the Palestinians and to negotiate with Turkey and Egypt without putting equal pressure for reforms on those nations. The administration is also weakening its ally by interfering in internal affairs, such as the building of Israeli settlements in occupied Palestinian territories, Gingrich claims.

[Read: Newt Gingrich's 2012 surge could last, if he doesn't self-destruct.]

Second, Panetta said the stability and security of the Middle East is vital, and about 40,000 U.S. troops will remain in the area to defend allies, counter threats, and support "the free flow of resources and commerce that are so vital to the fragile global economy."

Gingrich countered that President Obama's policies—like the accelerated withdrawal from Iraq, the coming withdrawal from Afghanistan, and failing "to promote real political reforms and good governance" throughout the so-called "Arab Spring"—are actually "promoting dangerous regional dynamics."

[Ron Paul: Free trade, not sanctions, will solve Iran nuclear crisis.]

Gingrich also slammed the administration's efforts to keep Iran from going nuclear, calling them "weak." Obama hasn't sanctioned enough, and he has basically taken off the table any military action against Iran, the former speaker claims.

The administration's policies, Gingrich wrote, "have had the effect of emboldening and bolstering the resolve of the Iranian regime."