Gingrich’s rhetoric stirs GOP’s Jewish activists

December 7, 2011

GOP presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich ignited an audience of
Re­publican Jewish activists in Washington by promising to move the U.S.
embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. And he was just getting started.

Gingrich
also promised to use American dollars to fund "every dissident group"
in Iran, whose leader has threatened to destroy Israel. And he would
appoint John Bolton—former U.S. ambassador to the UN and a conservative
favorite—to head the State Department.

With his fiery pro-Israel
rhetoric,  Gingrich outdid Mitt Romney's speech to the same group
earlier in the December 7 meeting. All GOP presidential candidates
except Rep. Ron Paul (R., Tex.) spoke to the gathering of the Republican
Jewish Coalition, and all expressed strong support for the Jewish
state.

Romney, often accused of blandness, had tried to inject
some passion into his remarks and even received a few compliments from
audience members for his energetic defense of the U.S.-Israel
partnership.

But Gingrich, who was gaining significant ground on
Romney, seemed to tap directly into the audience's frustrations with
what they perceive as a U.S. foreign policy that is unduly patient with
those who would do Israel harm.

"Can you imagine if our next-door
neighbor were firing missiles at us and we said 'Oh, can we come to the
table?' How about saying to Hamas: 'Give up violence and come to the
table'?" Gingrich said, referring to the militant government that rules
the Gaza Strip. "It's always Israel's fault no matter how bad the other
side is, and it's got to stop," Gingrich added.

Doug Hutt, a
Jewish Republican who came to the Washington forum from East Brunswick,
New Jersey, called Gingrich's comments—particularly his promise to move
the embassy to the ancient capital of Israel—"a lot of red meat for the
crowd." (Past peace proposals have tried to divide control of Jerusalem
between Israelis and Palestinians.)

Hutt added that he and other
Jewish Republicans still wonder if Gingrich, who carries significant
baggage related to his businesses and past marriages, is electable.

Jewish
Democrats said Jewish voters will overwhelmingly support President
Obama, as they did when a solid 78 percent of U.S. Jews cast their
ballot for him in 2008.

David A. Harris, president of the
Na­tional Jewish Democratic Council, called the December 7 meeting "the
rarest of au­diences—a group that is 100 percent Re­pub­lican and
Jewish."  —RNS