With Republicans looking to take back the presidency from Barack Obama, former Sen. Norm Coleman of Minnesota warned that failure to do so could threaten Israel’s existence.
Speaking at Congregation Sons of Israel in Manalapan June 3 for the Central New Jersey chapter of the Republican Jewish Coalition, Coleman warned if Obama is re-elected Iran would continue its march toward developing nuclear capability.
Coleman also questioned whether the “unbreakable bond” between the United States and Israel would remain intact during a second Obama term.
“If Iran were to go nuclear it would mean the death of Israel,” said Coleman, a foreign affairs adviser to presumed Republican nominee Mitt Romney. “If Iran gets a nuclear weapon, Saudi Arabia will buy one and then the Egyptians will get one…. Proliferation will run amuck.”
Addressing the gathering before Coleman was state Sen. Joseph Kyrillos (R-Dist. 13), who is challenging Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) in November.
Coleman, who served in the Senate from 2003 to 2009, when he lost to Democrat and fellow Jew Al Franken, is on the RJC national board.
He said he believed the 2012 election would be “pivotal,” with the economy the overriding issue.
In a talk laced with Yiddishisms, Coleman described his evolution from his childhood in Brooklyn (“I never met a Republican or Lutheran until I went to college”) through his years at Hofstra University. He described himself as a member of the counterculture and an anti-Vietnam War activist. He would eventually be elected mayor of St. Paul as a Democrat and switch to the Republican Party before his second term.
In a jibe at the majority of Jews who vote Democratic and are liberal on social issues, Coleman said, “Unfortunately, too many Jews assume that when Moses came down he was carrying two tablets. One said abortion and the other gay rights.”
Coleman acknowledged: “We have a tough battle against our own relatives, our mishpocha.”
Coleman touched on a number of issues, pinning the stubborn unemployment rate on administration policies and criticizing the president’s health-care reforms and education policy.
Lack of understanding
Coleman said Obama’s actions over his first term demonstrated a lack of understanding of the fundamental importance of Israel.
He cited several examples: In Obama’s 2009 Cairo speech, Coleman said, the president equated the suffering of Palestinians and Holocaust victims. At other times, according to Coleman, Obama spoke about Jewish settlements in the West Bank without condemning Palestinian terrorism.
He said the president disrespected Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in November 2011 when an open microphone picked up French President Nicolas Sarkozy whispering to Obama, “I cannot bear Netanyahu. He’s a liar,” and Obama responded, “You think you have it bad. I have to deal with him every day.”
Coleman also cited Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s dressing down of the prime minister in a phone conversation over Jewish construction in east Jerusalem.
Obama, said Coleman, doesn’t get that “Israel’s security is its strength,” based on “a clear understanding that unconditionally the United States will be there.”
As evidence Coleman claimed that the administration is “playing ‘Mother, May I’ with Russia in the UN” over the Iranian issue.
“The Russians are supplying Iran [with nuclear capability] and we’re still talking,” Coleman charged. Last week, Russia’s state atomic agency said it is ready to help Iran build another unit at the Bushehr nuclear power plant.
He said Romney would take more decisive action on Iran but did not elaborate. Declaring to strong applause that “Jerusalem is the undivided capital of Israel,” Coleman predicted Romney would move the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem if elected — a pledge made by George W. Bush when he was a candidate for president.
“Israel has the absolute right to defend itself to ensure that Iran doesn’t have nuclear weapons,” said Coleman, adding that under current conditions, “It’s clear that the bond between the U.S. and Israel is not unshakeable” and said if Obama is re-elected, “that gap gets wider.”