Israel and one US Presidential hopeful

Today I want to take a look at a few statements Mike Huckabee made over the weekend about his position on Israel. These statements are important because he is running for the Republican nomination for President of the United States, the most powerful office in the world. While he might not be the frontrunner, his positions on Israel and Palestine are a sign of how the Republicans are becoming steadily more one sided on this issue – one that will be a huge talking point in the upcoming candidate debates.

Please do note that this piece isn’t trying to present a one sided image of the conflict. Check out these other pieces for a look at myths about the conflict, and why Israel is so disliked in Europe.

“The two state solution, if we mean two governments holding the same piece of real estate is irrational and unworkable,”

Israel and Palestine don’t share the same ‘real estate’. Thanks to their victory in the 1948 war after Israel’s independence, Israel ended up with more land than they were to receive in the original UN plan, and these are now the borders not up for debate. After the 1967 war though, Israel occupied the Palestinian land that Egypt and Jordan were administrating. Since then various Israeli governments have been busy building settlements and blurring the lines on what is Israel and what is Palestine. Under international law though, the division is very clear.

“One of the sides, the Palestinians, continue to say that Israel doesn’t have a right to exist. You can’t forge an alliance with that.”

Firstly, there are currently different organisations governing different parts of Palestine, Hamas in Gaza, the Palestinian Authority (PLO) in the West Bank. It’s true, Hamas certainly doesn’t (officially) believe Israel should exist. The PLO on the other hand renounced violence and recognised Israel way back in 1993, leading to a landmark peace deal (which later broke down). No one who’s actually negotiating on behalf of Palestine is starting from the position that Israel shouldn’t exist. It’s sort of hard to advocate for the removal of the region’s biggest military power.

Secondly though, many on the Israeli side on the other hand are starting from the position that the West Bank at least is Israeli soil, and that a Palestinian state shouldn’t exist. If it does, it should be neutered, without a military, and with much Israeli control. There are hardliners and bigots on both sides.

“There’s plenty of land in the world where we can find a place and say, ‘Okay, let’s create a Palestinian state.’”

This was exactly what was suggested for the Jews before WWII, and it wasn’t received well. Try to find a spot on earth that a) is looking for another few million displaced people, and b) which those few million Palestinians would prefer to their ancestral land. Also, come on, it’s just as incredibly offensive as when British suggested the Jews go to Uganda. It dehumanises the Palestinians, and shows a breathtaking lack of regard for history.

“I can’t explain the harsh anti-Israel sentiment that exists in this administration”

That’s because it’s not there. Over the last 50 years the US has gone from a fairly even-handed policy to a point where condemning the illegal building of settlements in the West Bank is seen as ‘harsh anti-Israel sentiment’. The Israeli government gets immense amounts of aid and international support from the United States, and barely even gives respect back, often ignoring US advice or undermining US peace plans. To be honest, Israel is already getting a lot more support than they should expect from a realistic US foreign policy.

“The boundaries of Israel are not given by the United Nations, but by Almighty God”

This is a stunning thing for a US presidential hopeful to say. There’s being open about faith, and then there’s making foreign policy decisions affecting millions based not on the national interest, or even humanitarian concerns, but on a personal interpretation of the Bible. This statement sounds insane to atheists, and offensive to Muslims. It’s also embarrassing to many other Christians, who don’t all believe Biblical history should be linked to the modern state of Israel. Faith is an important driver of personal decisions and reasoning, and there’s no reason it shouldn’t be. But it must always be backed up by arguments based on common reasoning and logic – especially when it comes to foreign policy.

It’s worth remembering that Huckabee is still only a candidate for the nomination. In the Republican primaries all the candidates go hardline, then veer back to the centre a bit before the actual election. When they take office, they may change when faced with the realities of the world. But when Huckabee or other candidates make statements like this that fly in the face of reality and international consensus, it’s important. The US is still the world’s superpower, and still has a crucial role to play in the Middle East. We can’t let statements like this slide by without giving them the scrutiny they deserve.

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