On August 1st, as the Israeli ground incursion into Gaza was well underway, Texas Governor Rick Perry published an Op-Ed on the influential website Politico advocating that America should stand with Israel in its fight against Hamas. “Israel needs more than our passive support-it needs our vigorous support”, stated Perry adding that the current conflict between Israel and Hamas in but one part of a “much-larger conflict, one with far-ranging implications that can affect the lives of every person on the globe”.
Perry rose to prominence for a short while during the Republican Presidential primaries of 2012. Featured on the cover of Time magazine with the heading “The Rise of Rick Perry”, the Governor was seen as a possible Presidential candidate thanks to his southern charm and affinity to all things conservative- guns, churches, executions and anti-gay legislature. Yet it was the “Oops” heard round the world which Perry uttered during a debate with fellow Republican contenders that eventually ended his short and tumultuous campaign.
Now, armed with Clark Kent like glasses, Perry seems poised to attempt a second bid for the Republican nomination in 2016. For Israelis, it may seem strange that American politicians like Perry and Democratic hopeful Hilary Clinton are campaigning three years before Americans actually go to cast their votes. After all in Israeli politics one week is an eternity.
Yet there’s a reason the American Presidential campaign is called the longest campaign on earth. Presidential candidates need to establish a national presence long before the primary season begins. They also need to formulate opinions on national issues such as immigration, health-care and US foreign policy and make those opinions heard throughout the land and the national media. But most importantly, potential candidates need to start amassing a massive financial war chest as running for the Presidency of the United States is a costly adventure currently estimated at a staggering one Billion dollars.
It is in the context of a Presidential bid that Perry’s article in Politico should be read. Now is the time for Perry to designate himself Israel’s greatest friend in an attempt to garner initial support from two crucial demographics, the conservative American right and Jewish benefactors.
Given his political orientation Perry is not likely to struggle with conservative or Tea Party voters. But he does face an uphill struggle with the Jewish moguls as was made evident on March 25th when Perry was not invited to the “Sheldon Primary’s”, an event hosted by gambling Czar Sheldon Adelson in which other potential Republican candidates swore allegiance to the Israeli flag in hope of gaining a fraction of Adelson’s financial support which amounted to 92 million dollars in the 2012 elections.
Perry’s Op Ed was more of a serenade than a call to arms. He explained that he has a deep understanding of Israel’s predicament thanks to his many visits to the country. The governor also stated that Hamas would do all it can to kill every single Israeli, that Israel has taken unprecedented steps towards safeguarding Palestinian lives and “that Israel’s response has been anything but disproportionate”. Finally, Perry made sure to express support for the financing of the Iron Dome system which saved countless Israeli lives.
Be still Sheldon’s beating heart.
Yet the Governor’s Op Ed did more than offer unconditional support of Israel, it offered insight into Perry’s foreign policy doctrine, a doctrine that resembles George W. Bush’s dichotomy of a global battle between good and evil and a divided world in which nations are either with the US or with the terrorists.
And it is this kind of thinking that prevents the Governor from understanding the complexities of the Middle East and that of the Hamas movement. For the battle between Israel and Hamas is not the clash of civilizations Perry depicts. There is a great difference between Hamas and other Islamic movements such as Isis, Boko Haram or al-Qaeda for Hamas has national aspirations, for it seeks to create a Palestinian state and it has undergone a fundamental ideological transition that had led it to accept the two state solution.
Perry’s simplistic mindset will ultimately prevent him for being Israel’s greatest friend. His Presidency will be as destructive to Israel’s security as that of George W Bush whose Mid East policies destabilized the entire region and can only be summed up in a Perry like manner-Oops.