Rick Perry seeks to repair rift over foreign aid to Israel

Rick Perry said Wednesday that U.S. assistance for Israel would increase under his administration, as he sought to ease Jewish concerns that he’d cut off foreign aid.

Perry had proposed an overhaul of how America spends money overseas, and had said that if he took office all nations would start from zero.

Speaking at a candidates forum hosted by the Republican Jewish Coalition, Perry acknowledged that he had some repair work to do, and used something of a rhetorical escape hatch.

“America long ago ended the traditional foreign aid to Israel,” he said. “Strategic defensive aid is what we will continue to be focused on. And strategic aid in all forms under a Perry administration will increase to Israel.”

Perry otherwise sought to keep focus on what he called a “torrent of hostility” shown by the White House toward its staunch Middle East ally.

Listing a series of statements in the last month about Israel from key administration officials, Perry said they were not “coordinated.”

“It seems from my perspective to be a natural expression of this administration’s hostility toward Israel,” he said.

Perry, as many of the hopefuls have said Wednesday, warned of the looming threat toward Israel from Iran, which he said is “marching unimpeded toward nuclear weapons.”

Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, who followed Perry, called this a “moment of clarity” for the United States, which she said must stand with Israel and “against the U.N.”

“In leading from behind, President Obama has been ambiguous with Iran, and given them the luxury of time,” she said.

Bachmann, a member of the House Intelligence Committee, said the White House has “confused engagement with appeasement, to the delight of Israel’s enemies.”