Texas Gov. Rick Perry on Wednesday criticized an American "policy of calculated ambivalence" toward Israel, a nod toward conservative voters as he considers a second run for president.
The retiring Republican governor spoke at a pro-Israel rally outside Dallas' city hall.
Perry mostly refrained from attacking American policy in a five-minute speech, but said America must continue to wholeheartedly support Israel and that Israel was justified in defending itself. Several hundred people at the rally waved white-and-blue flags and cheered as he spoke.
"America must be clear: Israel has the right to exist as a Jewish state," Perry said, his voice rising as he spoke. "On this point, there can be no negotiation, no equivocation. America cannot negotiate a middle ground when one party seeks the wholesale destruction of the other."
More than 1,300 Palestinians and 56 Israeli soldiers have died during several weeks of fighting between Israeli soldiers and insurgents in the Palestinian territory of Gaza. Attempts to reach a lasting cease-fire have failed.
Perry did not mention President Barack Obama or Secretary of State John Kerry, but talked about his own commitment to Israel and his visits to landmarks like the Western Wall.
With his last term as governor winding down, Perry has signaled that he will try again for the White House after his failed bid for the Republican nomination in 2012, mostly remembered for a series of high-profile flubs in debates. He visited Israel last year for an economic development trip and to announce the opening of a branch campus of Texas A&M University.
"I've borne witness to the present-day threats that are facing the people of Israel," Perry said, adding: "Against this backdrop, this backdrop of terror and hostility, the people of Israel persevere."