WASHINGTON -- The GOP presidential candidates ramped up discussion about Israel policy in the past week, as Palestinian leaders pushed for a United Nations vote on full statehood. While GOP leaders have criticized President Obama and Democrats for abandoning the Jewish state, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu refuted those attacks.
"Israel enjoys tremendous bipartisan support," said Netanyahu in an interview on NBC's "Meet the Press." He added, "I think that bipartisan support is expressed by any person who happens to be the president of the United States, including President Obama."
When host David Gregory asked if Obama was as much a friend of Israel as President George W. Bush was, Netanyahu replied, "They're all friends of Israel, equally representing this friendship of America."
Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) held a campaign event in New York City on Tuesday and sharply criticized Obama's policies on Israel.
"Simply put, we would not be here today at the precipice of such a dangerous move if the Obama policy in the Middle East wasn't naive, arrogant, misguided and dangerous," Perry said.
"It must be said, first, that Israel is our oldest and strongest democratic ally in the Middle East and has been for more than 60 years. The Obama policy of moral equivalency which gives equal standing to the grievances of Israelis and Palestinians, including the orchestrators of terrorism, is a dangerous insult," he said.
GOP 2012 candidate and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney put out a statement saying Obama had made "repeated efforts over three years to throw Israel under the bus and undermine its negotiating position."
Netanyahu pointedly declined to comment directly on their statements, saying to NBC host David Gregory, "David, you are trying to throw me under the bus of American politics. And guess what? I'm not going to be thrown here."
He did, however, get involved in American politics this week by responding to comments that Bill Clinton made on Thursday, in which the former president blamed Netanyahu for continued failure of the Middle East peace process.
"I respectfully disagree," Netanyahu said in an interview with ABC News. "The Palestinians are basically trying to shortcut this. They're trying to get a state without giving us peace, without giving us security."
"President Clinton knows very well [that] in 2000 at Camp David...who really made the generous offer and the Palestinians refused to come," he said. "I'm sure that President Bush can tell you what happened at Camp David a few years later, when another Israeli prime minister made a generous offer, and the Palestinians refused to come."
Netanyahu also praised Obama on Wednesday, saying the president's attempts to dissuade the Palestinian push for statehood was a "badge of honor."
“I want to thank you, Mr. President, for standing with Israel and supporting peace,” Netanyahu said. “We both agree that Palestinians and Israelis should sit down and negotiate. This is the only way to get a stable and durable peace.”