With most of the Republican nominees trying to do outdo each other by professing that their support for Israel is the strongest and most unwavering, it’s not surprising that Israelis themselves were keeping a close eye on the Iowa caucus. And the fact that Ron Paul did relatively well will keep Israelis tuning in. Paul has advocated that America cut foreign aid to Israel altogether – along with aid to all other countries.
For Haaretz correspondent Chemi Shalev the photo-finish drama of the caucus results was an opportunity to remark on how Americans “detest” tie scores and much prefer a world populated by clear winners and losers.
That may be, but it’s also clear that Israelis are eager to know what the fortunes of Republican candidates might mean for Israel. Mitt Romney is considered pro-Israel, although his success in Iowa hasn’t attracted much attention beyond straight analyses of the political fights he’s likely to face in the coming weeks and months.
Some, at least, seem pleased with Santorum’s strong second place showing. Shalev calls Santorum “an intelligent and pleasant candidate with extreme conservative views whose success will now inject him with a dose of charisma that he sorely needs.”
Previously, Santorum has suggested that there are no Palestinians living in the West Bank, only Israelis, and equated the dismantling of Israeli settlements with asking the U.S. to give Texas back to Mexico.
News of Ron Paul’s third place success has been far less popular among Israelis and American Jews, where his views on cutting aid to Israel and on containing the Iranian nuclear threat have been met with sharp criticism and charges of anti-Semitism. A prominent Jewish Republican political activist from Des Moines interviewed by Haaretz said that he was “embarrassed and unhappy” about how well Ron Paul did.
Paul’s son, Senator Rand Paul, has since told the Jerusalem Post that his father’s views on Israel and the Middle East are misunderstood. Judging by the readers’ comments, it’s not clear that either Paul has made much headway with Israelis.