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On the issues: GOP hopefuls on Israel, Iran, abortion, Social Security and more

JTA Staff

February 28, 2012 | 1:58 pm

Republican Presidential candidates, from left to right: Ron Paul, Rick Santorum, Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich in Mesa, Ariz. on Feb. 22. Photo by REUTERS/Joshua Lott

Republican Presidential candidates, from left to right: Ron Paul, Rick Santorum, Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich in Mesa, Ariz. on Feb. 22. Photo by REUTERS/Joshua Lott

In advance of Super Tuesday, JTA takes a look at the stances of the four Republican presidential candidates on some issues of Jewish interest. The candidates are listed in alphabetical order.

ABORTION

Newt Gingrich: Has said that abortion should not be legal, though he makes exceptions in cases of rape, incest and danger to a mother’s life. He signed a pledge promising to sign a federal law that would “protect unborn children who are capable of feeling pain from abortion.”

Ron Paul: Opposes abortion rights but argues the issue should be left up to the states. But he signed the pledge supporting a federal law banning abortion when the fetus is “capable of feeling pain.” He advocates repealing Roe v. Wade and defining in federal law that life begins at conception.

Mitt Romney: Says Roe v. Wade should be overturned but until then opposes federal laws that clash with it. He says that abortion should be a state issue. Romney has said that he would support state laws defining conception as the moment life begins. He has repudiated his past support for abortion rights.

Rick Santorum: Favors a constitutional ban on abortion. He believes abortion should be illegal with no exceptions for rape or incest. Santorum wants doctors who perform abortions to face criminal charges.

FOREIGN AID

Gingrich: Endorsed Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s proposal to start each country’s foreign aid allocation at zero every year before deciding how much it should receive. Gingrich believes, however, that the existing multi-year aid commitment to Israel should be honored.

Paul: Opposes all foreign aid, including to Israel. He says U.S. aid undermines Israeli sovereignty.

Romney: Endorsed Perry’s start-at-zero aid proposal and has said that the U.S. should not be borrowing money from China to pay for humanitarian aid for other countries. Romney supports increasing military aid to Israel.

Santorum: Defends foreign aid as a cost-effective means of promoting American interests abroad. “America is that shining city on the hill,” he said. “It is the city that comes to the aid of those in trouble in the world.”

IRANIAN NUCLEAR PROGRAM

Gingrich: Advocates assassinating Iran’s nuclear scientists and sabotaging its gasoline supply. He says he would give logistical support to Israel if it attacks Iran. Gingrich has questioned whether a bombing campaign could take out Iran’s nuclear sites, calling the notion “a fantasy.” He calls for regime change.

Paul: Argues that the Iranian nuclear threat is “blown out of proportion.” Instead of imposing sanctions on Iran, he suggests the U.S. should be “maybe offering friendship to them.” Paul says he would not object if Israel decides to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities.

Romney: Calls a nuclear Iran “the greatest threat the world faces.” He says he supports “crippling sanctions” but would order a strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities “if all else fails.” “Ultimately, regime change is what’s going to be necessary,” he said.

Santorum: Says that if sanctions do not stop the Iranian nuclear program, he would support tactical strikes against its nuclear sites. He proposes that the U.S. should give Iran an ultimatum to open up and dismantle its nuclear facilities or face military action.

ISRAELI-PALESTINIAN RELATIONS

Gingrich: Says the Palestinians are an “invented” people but clarified that he supports a negotiated Palestinian state. He says he would move the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.

Paul: Says the U.S. should not be dictating terms of a peace agreement between the Israelis and Palestinians. During Operation Cast Lead, he said Gaza was “like a concentration camp” and suggested that the Palestinians were being wrongly labeled the aggressors.

Romney: Says President Obama “threw Israel under the bus” and suggests there should not be “an inch of difference” between the U.S. and Israel. His website says he “will reject any measure that would frustrate direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.”

Santorum: Said on the campaign trail that “all the people that live in the West Bank are Israelis, they’re not Palestinians. There is no ‘Palestinian.’ This is Israeli land.” He says that Israel has a right to build in the West Bank.

RELIGION AND STATE

Gingrich: Says that the “secular left” wants “a totally neutral government without meaning.” Argues that the left’s “stand for a separation of church and state” has “perverted Thomas Jefferson’s words beyond belief.”

Paul: Has argued that there is no constitutional basis for “a rigid separation between church and state.” Says that while the Constitution prohibits theocracy, the First Amendment means “Congress should never prohibit the expression of your Christian faith in a public place.”

Romney: Praised the separation of church and state in his 2008 speech on religion but said that some have taken it “well beyond its original meaning.” He warned against efforts to exclude religion from public life in the name of “the religion of secularism.”

Santorum: Warns against America becoming a place where “only people of non-faith can come into the public square and make their case,” saying that the idea “makes me throw up.” He said that “I don’t believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute.”

SOCIAL SECURITY

Gingrich: Proposes allowing younger workers to invest in personal retirement accounts instead of Social Security while still requiring employers to pay into the current Social Security system.

Paul: Says that Social Security is unconstitutional. Rather than scrapping the system immediately, he proposes allowing workers under the age of 25 to opt out.

Romney: Supports raising the eligibility age and slowing increases for inflation for higher-income retirees. He would leave benefits the same for people currently over 55.

Santorum: Supports raising the eligibility age, trimming benefits for wealthy retirees and other cost-saving adjustments. Previously supported shifting Social Security to personal retirement accounts but says this would be too expensive under current economic circumstances.

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