Former Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee visiting Jerusalem on Monday called John McCain the “overwhelmingly better choice” for Israel in the United States’ upcoming presidential elections.
"John McCain understands this part of the world very clearly,” Huckabee said, while adding that Democratic candidate Barack Obama doesn’t “fully grasp” the politics of the region.
The former Arkansas governor was whisked to Israel by a right-wing organization, the Jerusalem Reclamation Project, which settles Israelis amid predominantly Arab east Jerusalem neighborhoods. Huckabee, on a 48-hour tour, stressed Israel’s right to defend itself against a potential strike by Iran. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has repeatedly vowed to “wipe Israel off the map.”
“Israel has to take whatever steps it feels necessary to protect itself against someone who has openly said it would seek to annihilate her,” Huckabee said.
He said the United States should remove a restriction on the sale of F-22 stealth fighters to Israel since they are “specifically the type of aircraft Israel needs for its defense purposes.”
Huckabee also underscored his support for an undivided Jewish capital.
“It is possible for different cultures and people to live together, but it is not necessarily very realistic to expect two governments to operate on the same street,” Huckabee said, referring to a divided Jerusalem as a capital of both a Jewish and Palestinian state.
Palestinians demand all of east Jerusalem including the Old City containing Muslim and Jewish holy sites as the capital of their future state. Israeli politicians have been willing to give up parts of Jerusalem, but the concept of giving up Jerusalem is extremely controversial among Israelis. The city today is a crowded patchwork of Jewish and Arab neighborhoods all closely situated.
“If a person comes here and can see the close proximity, just the tiny little footprint that Israel actually occupies, one gets the idea that to maintain a long-term security and peace there has to be attention to every inch of real estate,” Huckabee said.
Taking it a step further, Huckabee said America should relocate its Israeli embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem to acknowledge the nation’s capital. Most countries moved their embassies from Jerusalem in 1980 under threat of an Arab oil embargo. Huckabee believes McCain will do so if elected.
Daniel Luria, executive director of Jerusalem Reclamation Project, said the organization brought Huckabee to Israel to reinforce his friendship with the Jewish state.
“He speaks truth and calls a spade a spade,” Luria said. “He understands dealing with the Arab world, terrorism, Hamas, Fatah cannot be, that Oslo (agreement) has failed, ‘land for peace’ doesn’t work, and that you can’t divide Jerusalem and expect everything is going to be okay.”
Huckabee called this tenth trip of his to the Holy Land since 1973 a fact-finding mission and not a sign of any political aspirations. He visited secluded Jewish settlements in the shadow of the security fence in east Jerusalem, places even President George W. Bush and McCain hadn’t visited.
Democratic New York Congressman Dov Hikind, who accompanied Huckabee, called the Republican a “real hero in the Jewish community”
“He is someone who understands Israel, understands Jerusalem beyond what most people understand,” Hikind said.
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