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GOP rivals blast Obama in front of Jewish Republicans; Debbie Wasserman Schultz fires back

Republican presidential candidates ripped apart President Barack Obama’s Middle East policies on Wednesday, accusing him of not coming down hard enough on Iran's nuclear aspirations and endangering longtime U.S. ally Israel.

In front of the Republican Jewish Coalition in Washington D.C., six of the GOP presidential hopefuls took the stage to blast Obama and pledge support to Israel. Several also called on Obama to fire his ambassador to Belgium and said they’d move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

The chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Weston, fired back that Republicans are trying to appeal to Jewish voters on foreign policy matters because they have nothing in their social agenda that speaks to the values of the Jewish community.

"Because they know they can't attract voters with their domestic policy, Republicans turn to Israel and attempt to make the Jewish state a partisan issue as a last ditch attempt to sway the Jewish community's vote," she said. 

"Let me be clear: As an American Jewish leader, I am extremely proud of President Barack Obama's ongoing commitment to Israel," she said. Obama has signaled to the world that "while events in the Middle East might be uncertain, the U.S.-Israel relationship is stronger than ever," Wasserman Schultz said. The president's commitment to Israel "speaks for itself," she said, pointing to a speech in September in front of the United Nations where Obama called the U.S. friendship with Israel "deep and enduring."
Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney accused Obama of being "timid and weak" in the face of Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapon capability and of insulting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. He suggested Obama’s actions have “emboldened Palestinian hard-liners and said the president has "immeasurably set back the prospect of peace in the Middle East."

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, whose recent rise in the polls has threatened Romney, earned applause when he suggested he'd ask George W. Bush's hawkish former UN ambassador, John Bolton, to serve as Secretary of State.

Wasserman Schultz defended the Obama administration, saying U.S. military assistance has been raised to unprecedented levels, including the largest-ever security assistance funding outlay in 2010, and $3 billion for 2011. The president also made clear he wouldn't accept a unilateral declaration of independence at the United Nations, and also wouldn't accept any proposed two-state solutions outside of direct bilateral negotiations, Wasserman Schultz said. She also noted that the U.S. has led international efforts to to thwart Iran's nuclear ambitions. 

"What we heard today was a lot of bluster from a bunch of candidates who are quick to support wiping out Israel's foreign aid budget when talking in one forum, only to say something different when taking to the Republican Jewish coalition," she said.