Potential GOP candidates criticize Obama’s approach

By Philip Elliott
Associated Press / May 20, 2011

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HANOVER, N.H. — President Obama undermined the sensitive and delicate negotiations for Middle East peace with his outline for resumed talks between Israelis and Palestinians, the Republicans looking to unseat him charged yesterday.

The criticism was uniform. Former Utah governor Jon Huntsman said Obama, whom he served as US ambassador to China until last month, undercut an opportunity for Israelis and Palestinians to build trust. Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney said Obama “threw Israel under the bus’’ and handed the Palestinians a victory even before negotiations between the parties could resume.

Former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty said it “is a disaster waiting to happen.’’ And former senator Rick Santorum called the president’s approach “dangerous.’’

Foreign policy has hardly been the center of the debate among the still-forming GOP presidential field. Instead, the candidates and potential candidates have kept their focus — like the country’s — on domestic issues that are weighing on voters and their pocketbooks. Obama’s speech provided one of the first opportunities for Republicans to assert their foreign policy differences with Obama and his Democratic administration.

Obama endorsed Palestinians’ demands for the borders of its future state based on 1967 borders — before the Six Day War in which Israel occupied East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza. That was a significant shift in stated US foreign policy.

“It is disrespectful of Israel for America to dictate negotiating terms to our ally,’’ Romney said. “It is not appropriate for the president to dictate the terms.’’

Instead, the United States should work with Israel to push for peace without acceding to the Palestinians, he said.