JERUSALEM - The U.S. government should be focusing on Iran’s treatment of its citizens and its nuclear program more than a few Jewish families who want to live in a predominantly Arab neighborhood of Jerusalem, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee said in a visit to Jerusalem today.
Huckabee’s tour of Jewish communities in East Jerusalem underscored tensions between the current Israeli government and the Obama administration. The Fox News show host insisted his visit to Israeli settlements was not meant to be a provocation, however Huckabee’s trip is drawing protests from left-wing Israeli organizations and energizing proponents of the building in the predominantly Arab neighborhood.
“I’m not here to create a dispute with the current U.S administration and I’m certainly not here to give instructions to the Israelis,” he said. The highlight of his visit includes a dinner at the Shepherd Hotel, a Jewish-owned building in Arab East Jerusalem that has stirred new controversy between Israel and the United States over Israel’s right to build in certain areas of the country.
The U.S. State Department asked Israel to retract construction permits granted by the municipality to renovate the building. Israel has refused.
“We cannot accept the idea that Jews will not have the right to live and buy [homes] anywhere in Jerusalem,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared at the time. The Shepherd Hotel, in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood, has been in Israeli custody since 1967 and was bought by an American millionaire Irving Moskowitz in the 1980s.
N.Y. State Assemblyman Dov Hikind, traveling with the former presidential candidate, launched a harsh tirade against America’s recent policy toward Israel, calling Obama’s relationship with the Netanyahu government “a horror.”
“The President of the United State over the last few months has reached out to every dictatorship in the world. The only country in the world that America has not embraced is Israel and that has dramatically undermined the peace process,” Hikind charged.
“The policy of President Obama, that Israel must not build in the communities of Judea and Samaria and East Jerusalem, even for natural growth, has now given (Palestinian President Mahmoud) Abbas, Saudi Arabia and other countries in the Middle East an absolute excuse not to sit down and talk peace,” the Brooklyn assemblyman said. Hikind said the administration’s policies toward Israel are causing American Jews to distance themselves from the Democrat-dominated government.
“There is a major change going on, slowly but surely, for a variety of reasons, but the Obama administration has been grossly unfair to the State of Israel,” he said. ”(Obama) thinks he can impose things on Israel and shove it down Israel’s throat. This is insulting to the people of Israel and to the American people as well.”
Huckabee and Hikind’s visit comes as more Israeli leaders expressed doubt in America’s backing. Knesset Member Daniel Herschkowitz said some of Obama's policies ”are borderline anti-Semitic.”
“Israel is an independent state. Relations with the U.S. are important, but relations must go both ways,” he told The Jerusalem Post in a story published today. “I don't know if Obama understands it, but most Americans believe that Israel is their only anchor in the Middle East.”
Amid a flurry of negative reports on US-Israel relations, Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon issued a statement today praising the strong ties between the countries.
“Like all good friends, there are sometimes small disputes. However, just like good friends, we will reach an understanding and reconcile two differences of opinions,” he said.
Huckabee and Hikind are in Israel as guests of a right-wing Jewish group, the Jerusalem Reclamation Project, that brought them to contested East Jerusalem neighborhoods and plans to escort them to other Jewish neighborhoods, settlements and the city of Hebron during the three-day visit.
Huckabee, who supports a united Jerusalem under Israeli sovereignty, has earned the nickname “Huckabee the Macabee” after Jewish warriors who fought Greek invaders in the second century B.C.
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