House Speaker Newt Gingrich accused the Clinton administration Sunday of building U.S. foreign policy around personalities rather than American interests and issues.
"Building foreign policy around personalities is very dangerous," Gingrich said, noting the setback President Clinton faces after Israeli voters elected Likud Party leader Benjamin Netanyahu as prime minister last week when Clinton openly backed incumbent Shimon Peres."Who are we to go around the world and tell people who they should re-elect?" Gingrich said on the NBC-TV program "Meet the Press."
Secretary of State Warren Christopher, appearing on CBS's "Face the Nation" acknowledged that the Clinton administration is adjusting its Middle East policies as a result of Peres' defeat, although he noted that Netanyahu has promised to keep any agreements Isreal has made.
"I would want to keep open the situation of adapting our policy to the situation as it develops," Christopher said.
Christopher warned that the Arab-Israeli peace talks could be derailed if the new Israeli government follows through on its hard-line campaign promises to expand settlements on the West Bank.
Gingrich, who said that he telephoned Netanyahu after the elections, attributed Netanyahu's election to the concerns ordinary Israelis have about their personal security. He said Americans can't sit in judgment because they don't face the same constant threats.
But he urged Clinton to stop making U.S. foreign policy on the basis of personalities. He said Clinton is making the same error by publicly supporting the re-election of Russian President Boris Yeltsin while condemning the candidacy of Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov.
"It is not our right to reach across the world and tell people which government they should pick," Gingrich said.
He said the policy reminded him of the days when U.S. presidents tried to control Latin American regimes by propping up dictators or factions. He warned Clinton that open support of Yeltsin could result in a backlash among Russians who are historically deeply suspicious about foreign involvement in their country.
"It gets very tricky when presidents get involved in other people's elections," he said.
Gingrich said he's not prepared to launch a "Who lost Russia?" campaign against Clinton should Yeltsin lose in the June 16 election.
"It's not ours to lose," he said.