LYNN NEARY, host: Texas Governor Rick Perry is also in New York. The governor has been making the rounds on a presidential campaign trip. He had dinner with Rupert Murdoch and met with Hispanic business leaders, among other things. And though he's not there for the United Nations meeting, Governor Perry did hurl himself into the debate over U.S. foreign policy. He gave a public address on the Middle East, as NPR's Joel Rose reports.
JOEL ROSE: Governor Rick Perry appeared in New York flanked by Jewish leaders from the U.S. and Israel. And just as he did in an op-ed piece last week for the Wall Street Journal, today, Perry blasted President Obama's handling of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
We would not be here today at this very precipice of such a dangerous move if the Obama policy in the Middle East wasn't naive and arrogant, misguided and dangerous.
Perry criticized the White House for seeking concessions from Israel, in particular, the administration's call for a freeze on construction of Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank. He argues that the Obama administration has emboldened the Palestinian Authority to turn its back on the peace process and seek a vote on statehood in the U.N. instead.
Governor RICK PERRY: Indeed, bolstered by the Obama administration's policies and the apologist at the U.N., the Palestinians are exploiting the instability in the Middle East, hoping to achieve their objective without concessions and direct negotiations with Israel.
ROSE: Perry promised there will be no ambiguity if he's elected president.
PERRY: We are going to be there to support you, and we are going to be unwavering in that. So I hope you will tell the people of Israel that help is on the way.
(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)
ROSE: The White House's relationship with Israel has lately emerged as a potent issue in New York politics. It helped propel Republican Bob Turner to a special election victory last week in a New York City congressional district dominated by Democrats. Turner was at Perry's side on Tuesday to reinforce that point, so was New York Assemblyman Dov Hikind, an Orthodox Jew and a Democrat who crossed party lines to endorse Turner.
DOV HIKIND: The message in the 9th District is a very clear one, and it should be crystal clear to the White House: we don't like your policy on Israel.
(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)
ROSE: Hikind stopped short of endorsing Rick Perry, but he did offer this compliment.
HIKIND: Saw your article in the Wall Street Journal, and I said, that sounds like me. Those sound like the speeches I've been making for years. Those sound like a man who really understands the situation the people of Israel are confronted with. They want peace.
ROSE: Not all of the Republican presidential hopefuls agreed. Former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum told Politico, quote, "I've forgotten more about Israel than Rick Perry knows about Israel. " Perry's main rival for the GOP nomination, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, released a statement more in line with Perry's speech, accusing the Obama administration of throwing Israel, quote, "under the bus."
But some observers, including many in the American Jewish community, say that's going too far. David Harris of the American Jewish Committee points out the White House has threatened to veto a resolution on Palestinian statehood in the Security Council.
Dr. DAVID HARRIS: That's pretty heavy lifting. It's also said no to a Palestinian strategy at the General Assembly that would try and create some kind of statehood. That takes a lot of commitment. So just this week, there are some very good examples of an administration standing pretty tall, pretty strong in order to defend both Israel and the relationship with the United States.
ROSE: When asked about Perry's criticisms, Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes said the administration has been, quote, "unshakable in its support of Israel." And Robert Malley, a top aide on Middle East policy during the Clinton administration, agrees.
If anything, this administration has been more supportive of Israel than virtually any of its predecessors. If you look at the record in terms of sort of practical support military support, intelligence cooperation, support in international institutions like the U.N., the U.S. has been on the side of the administration, has been on the side of Israel on all those occasions.
Still, Malley admits there is a perception that the White House has not been as supportive of Israel as it could have been. And he thinks President Obama's political adversaries will continue to exploit that perception. Joel Rose, NPR News, New York.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.