Once and possibly future presidential candidate Mike Huckabee took the Obama administration’s Middle East policy to task on Tuesday during a visit to Israel, saying, “One of the disturbing things” during the past year has been Washington's putting all the pressure on Israel, and none on the Palestinians.
“What possible incentive do the Palestinians have to come to the table and make concessions, because the only direct policy from the administration has been to order Israel to freeze not some, but all, the settlements. That seems a little one sided,” Huckabee told The Jerusalem Post.
Huckabee, who arrived on Sunday to lead a large group of Christian tourists along with Pat Boone, a leading entertainer in the 1950s and 1960s who has become a leading Christian supporter of Israel, said the Obama administration’s approach to the conflict – and what he said was its one-sided pressure on Israel – is a distinct break from the polices of most previous U.S. administrations.
Settlement construction, paradoxically, could encourage the Palestinians back to the table, because of concern that, if they don’t return, there may not be anything later to negotiate about, Huckabee said.
The former Arkansas governor was in Israel most recently in August, as a guest of Ateret Cohanim, an organization that buys buildings from east Jerusalem Arabs in a bid to strengthen the Jewish presence there. At the time, The Associated Press characterized that visit as “provocative” because he visited the Shepherd Hotel in Jerusalem, Har Bracha, overlooking Nablus and the unauthorized settlement outpost at Givot Olam, also near Nablus.
This time his itinerary was much more conventional, with the seven-day trip focusing on Jerusalem, the Galilee and a trip to the Golan Heights on Saturday. Huckabee met during his visit with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, President Shimon Peres, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon.
Huckabee, who ran in the 2008 Republican primaries, hosts a Fox News show that is the highest-rated U.S. cable news program show on the weekends.
Huckabee, considered one of the top contenders for the 2012 Republican nomination, said he has not decided to throw his hat into the ring and probably would decide after the midterm elections in November.
“Running for office is punishing,” he said.
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