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GOP Candidates Spar Over Shalit Deal

The Shalit deal made a surprise entrance into the Republican presidential debate Tuesday night, with a Twitter user asking: Would the U.S. negotiation for a solder as Israel just did?

“I would have a policy that we do not negotiate with terrorists. We have to lay that principle down first”, Herman Cain declared, gaining much applause.

“Now, then you have to look at each individual situation and consider all the facts. The point that I made about this particular situation is that I’m sure Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had to consider a lot of things before he made that.

“So on the surface, I don’t think we can say he did the right thing or not. A responsible decision-maker would have considered everything,” he said.

CNN’s Anderson Cooper, who was moderating the debate, reminded him that several hours earlier in an interview to the same channel, asked by Wolf Blitzer whether al-Qaida had an American soldier in captivity, and they demanded the release of everyone at Guantanamo Bay, would he release them? “You said, I quote, “I could see myself authorizing that kind of a transfer”, Cooper said.

“I don’t recall him ever saying that it was al-Qaida- related”, Cain replied. “My policy would be we cannot negotiate with terrorists. That’s where we have to start as a fundamental principle”.

Michele Bachmann said: “This is a very serious issue. For any candidate to say that they would release the prisoners at Guantanamo in exchange for a hostage would be absolutely contrary to the historical nature of the United States and what we do in our policy.”

“That’s naive. We cannot do that. The United States has done well because we have an absolute policy: we don’t negotiate,” she said.

Former Senator Rick Santorum said: “Absolutely not, you can’t negotiate with terrorists, period.”

Libertarian Ron Paul played a bit of devil’s advocate, saying: “Are you all willing to condemn Ronald Reagan for exchanging weapons for hostages out of Iran? We all know that was done.”

Rick Santorum protested, saying that “Iran was a sovereign country, it was not a terrorist organization. We’ve negotiated with hostages, depending on the scale. But there’s a difference between releasing terrorists from Guantanamo Bay in response to terrorist demands than negotiating with other countries where we may have an interest.”

“But they’re all suspects, they’re not terrorists. You haven’t convicted them of anything”, replied Paul.

Former Speaker of Congress Newt Gingrich said that Reagan saw the Iranian deal as “a terrible mistake.”

Another issue being raised in the CNN debate was the extend of foreign aid the U.S> provides, including the annual budget it equips to longtime ally Israel.

Ron Paul said that it was “suicidal” for the U.S. not to consider cutting military budget., adding: “We have enough weapons to blow up the world about 20, 25 times. We have more weapons than all the other countries put together. And we want to spend more and more and you can’t cut a penny?”

For more, go to Haaretz.com

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