Texas Gov. Rick Perry said Thursday that he will visit Israel in October, a move that signals to the political world that he is seriously considering making another presidential run in 2016.
"We will be going to Israel to bring together Arabs, Christian and Jews in an educational forum," Mr. Perry told The Washington Times in an interview just three days after he announced he would not seek an unprecedented fourth term as Texas governor.
Many analysts interpreted that decision as evidence that he is setting the table for a White House campaign. Asked what would induce him to announce a run, he told The Times that he has "plenty of time to make that decision."
Mr. Perry ranks among those on the short list of Republican contenders for 2016, despite a series of flubs that led to an early exit from the 2012 primaries. Also on that list is Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, who made his own trek this year to Israel, a pilgrimage that has come to be expected of would-be presidential candidates — especially conservatives — looking to establish foreign policy credentials and show loyalty to the key Middle East ally of the United States.
Two other potential Republican candidates, Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida and Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, have made trips to Israel this year, and Mitt Romney, who defeated Mr. Perry to win the 2012 nomination, visited during the general election campaign.
Israel's stance as a bulwark against Iran earns it the backing of Republicans, but the U.S. commitment to military involvement in the region has become a dividing line within the party.
Mr. Perry and Mr. Paul have embraced the tea party movement and its more libertarian-flavored brand of Republicanism, and Mr. Perry made it clear Thursday that he backs a more deliberative approach to the use of American military muscle.
Noting that America's founders, including George Washington and Thomas Paine, warned against military intervention abroad unless the U.S. is directly attacked, Mr. Perry said, "How we intervene is crucial."
"Investing our treasure in educational operations will go more toward creating peace than any military foray," Mr. Perry said.
He offered pointed criticisms of President Obama and former President George W. Bush, a fellow Republican and Texan.
"Having a president who has not served in the military and does not understand the burden of sending our treasure — our young men and women — into battle is wrong," he said. "Afghanistan is a good example of how we can learn from history but have not. From Alexander the Great to the British Empire to the Soviets, the people of Afghanistan remained the same. Why we thought we would have a different outcome using our treasure and resources, I will never understand."
Mr. Perry is widely considered the most aggressive and successful state governor when it comes to personally persuading corporation heads in the United States and around the world to relocate part or all of their operations.
Texas has no personal income tax or limits on legal claims on corporations, and Mr. Perry has earned credit for making Texas the premier raider of other states' and countries' top businesses.
His personal ability to attract corporate CEOs may be Mr. Perry's biggest asset in arguing that he is ready to take the helm of the U.S. economy as president.
"It's not just low taxes and business-friendly regulations," he said, noting that "30 percent of all jobs created in the last decade, in all of America, were created in Texas, which has less than 10 percent of the population."
Mr. Perry said attracting business and jobs is "not just about the entrepreneur-friendly regs, but also quality of life."
There are many ways to judge quality of life, he said.
"There is no question that 10 to 15 years ago folks might have had a point in saying we were culturally and intellectually a backwater — Al Gore once said the air is brown here," he said. "Well, today, we have won that battle, both in perception and substance. The cultural arts here have exploded. From zoos, to music, to museums, to theater. In Houston, we have more theater seats than any other city in America except New York."
Mr. Perry's strong commitment to faith has been a big part of his political career, but he sees the economy as pre-eminent in the lives of Americans, whether religious or secular.
"Americans have to decide what is the most important to them — social issues, foreign policy, national security and other issues, but all those issues — many of them should be the purview of states, not the federal government. You can't have any of these if you do not take appropriate care of taxes, regulation, legal policies, so that there can be the revenues for those desires."
Mr. Perry's presidential nomination run last year flopped when, during a televised debate with Republican rivals, he couldn't remember the name of the third federal department he promised to shut down if elected president. He has made self-deprecating jokes about the "oops" moment ever since.
That sense of humor is expected to be another strong suit in a second bid for his party's presidential nomination.