WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Republican presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty will question President Barack Obama's handling of the "Arab spring" movement on Tuesday in what is being billed as a major foreign policy address.

Pawlenty, in a speech in New York, will say that Obama has failed to carry out "an effective and coherent strategy" in response to uprisings in North Africa and the Middle East, according to speech excerpts released by his campaign.

"He has been timid, slow, and too often without a clear understanding of our interests or a clear commitment to our principles," Pawlenty is to say.

The uprisings began in Tunisia, spread to Egypt and have convulsed governments in several countries, including Syria and Yemen.

Pawlenty is battling to break out of the pack of Republican contenders for the party's 2012 presidential nomination, but was struck a blow this week when a Des Moines Register poll found he only had 6 percent support among Iowa Republicans.

This was far behind rivals Mitt Romney and Michele Bachmann, who had 23 percent and 22 percent respectively.

Pawlenty, the conservative former governor of Minnesota, will say that it is essential that the United States make clear its unabashed support for Israel.

"Israeli-Palestinian peace is further away now than the day Barack Obama came to office. But that does not have to be a permanent situation. We must recognize that peace will only come if everyone in the region perceives clearly that America stands strongly with Israel," he is to say.

Pawlenty reserves some criticism for fellow Republicans as well, urging them to resist the temptation of isolationism.

Some of Pawlenty's opponents have raised questions about U.S. continued fighting in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya.

"America already has one political party devoted to decline, retrenchment and withdrawal; it does not need a second one," he planned to say.

(Reporting by Steve Holland; editing by Anthony Boadle)