Tuesday, August 18, 2009

In Israel, Perry compares Mexico to Gaza strip

In Israel, Perry compares Mexico to Gaza strip
12:00 AM CDT on Saturday, August 15, 2009

By TODD J. GILLMAN / The Dallas Morning News
tgillman@dallasnews.com


TEL AVIV, Israel – Gov. Rick Perry compared Mexico to the Gaza Strip this week, saying Texas can learn from Israeli security efforts after touring a town that has been hit by Palestinian rockets.

Perry, who has demanded a heightened U.S. troop presence along the Rio Grande, went to Israel's border with Gaza and was briefed by Israeli army officials.

"Kassam rockets have killed 28 Israelis over the last eight years. Well, 1,000 people have been killed in Juárez since the beginning of the year," the governor told the Jerusalem Post in Friday's editions, referring to the drug-related killings across the border from El Paso. "So we're trying to find ways to secure that border, because just like it's important to Israelis to keep heavy security on their border with Gaza, it's important to citizens of Texas to keep out the illegal activities that are going on with drugs."

Perry's office has been mum about his exact whereabouts during the trip. His wife, Anita, their son Griffin, and Griffin's fiancée are reportedly with him, and he returns to Texas today.

The Gaza-Mexico comparison was far more strident than the tone struck by President Barack Obama on Monday in Guadalajara, Mexico, with the leaders of Mexico and Canada. Obama pledged ongoing support in Mexico's fight with drug cartels.

Perry told the Post that in Sderot, the Israeli town near Gaza that took the brunt of attacks in recent years, he had seen "playgrounds that had to be covered from rocket fire. It's a powerful place."

An aide to Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, Perry's opponent in the March Republican primary, said Perry needed the tutorial on securing the border.

"With one of his signature border initiatives failing to meet almost every goal, we actually agree that Rick Perry has a lot to learn about border security," said Joe Pounder, a Hutchison spokesman. "So far, Rick Perry's done more talking about securing our borders than actually getting results for the people of Texas."

While in Israel, Perry also has met with President Shimon Peres and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and visited "sacred and historical sites," including Jerusalem's Old City, according to the newspaper.

Perry's first visit to Israel was 18 years ago; he visited again in 2007.

He described his views on Israel in religious terms sure to strike a chord with conservative Republicans.

"I'm a big believer that this country was given to the people of Israel a long time ago, by God, and that's ordained," Perry said, offering prayers and nearly unequivocal support for Israel. That stance puts him at odds with many American policymakers and even much of the Israeli populace, who feel that American prodding has kept Israel's hawks in check.

Perry was critical of the Obama administration for putting any pressure on Israel.

"Israel does all the giving, and the other side does not reciprocate," Perry said. "What I don't understand is this administration's hesitancy to recognize the sovereignty of Israel."

Perry's office said he also wanted to cultivate Texas-Israeli business ties on the trip.

Besides the Gaza-Mexico comparison, he drew a parallel between Texas' shrine to freedom and an Israeli mountaintop fortress where Jewish zealots held out against a Roman siege before committing mass suicide.

"The comparison between Masada and the Alamo was not lost on me," he said, recalling his first visit to Israel. "We're talking about two groups of people who were willing to give up their lives for freedom and liberty."

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