JERUSALEM (BP)–On what Time magazine dubbed his “first 2012 campaign stop,” Mike Huckabee said in Israel Aug. 18 there should be no Palestinian state in the West Bank and expressed support for Israeli settlements there.
“The question is, ‘Should Palestinians have a place to call their own?’ Yes. I have no problem with that. Should it be in the middle of the Jewish homeland? That’s what I think has to be honestly assessed as virtually unrealistic,” Huckabee, a former Republican candidate for president, told a small group of foreign reporters in Jerusalem.
The trip marked Huckabee’s 11th visit to Israel since 1973, and he told Time he purchased his own plane ticket despite being hosted by the Jerusalem Reclamation Project, a pro-settlement group.
“It’s inconceivable that we would ever understand how two sovereign governments would control the very same piece of real estate. We don’t know how that would work,” Huckabee said in opposition to a two-state solution.
Time said he compared the ban on Israeli settlements in Arab areas of East Jerusalem and the West Bank to segregation between black and white Americans in the deep South during his childhood, and he called for integration between Israelis and Arabs.
Huckabee’s stance is in opposition to President Obama, who in May told Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu that Jewish settlements on the West Bank must stop in order for the peace process to move forward.
Critics have compared Huckabee’s visit to a diplomatic mission House Speaker Nancy Pelosi took to Syria two years ago against the will of the Bush administration, but Huckabee said he traveled “purely as a private citizen” and did not meet with Netanyahu.
During his three-day trip, Huckabee visited a planned housing development in East Jerusalem that Obama has insisted not be built as well as a contentious settlement outpost on the West Bank.
On trips to Israel in the 1970s and ’80s, Huckabee had no problem visiting the Palestinian city of Nablus on the West Bank, according to a statement posted on his political action committee website Aug. 19.
“But this time, I couldn’t go because I was with Israelis, and they cannot enter Nablus or Bethlehem or Ramallah,” Huckabee wrote. “I commented on this because I thought it was remarkable that there are places Israelis can’t go in their own country.
“Just as I believe that Israelis should be able to travel to all parts of their country, I believe they should be able to live wherever they want in that country, and that the U.S. government should not tell an Israeli family that they can’t add a nursery to their house when they welcome a new baby, or tell an Israeli village that they can’t add a classroom to their schoolhouse.
“As a private citizen, I disagree, and I have a right to disagree, with President Obama’s demand for a freeze on Israel’s building new settlements, and with his further demand for a freeze on expansion of existing settlements, despite the natural growth that a community experiences,” Huckabee said. “His call for such a complete freeze contradicts the policy not just of President Bush, but of President Clinton, indeed of all our presidents since Israel’s victory in the 1967 war.”
The West Bank, a landlocked territory on the west bank of the River Jordan, largely has been under Israeli military occupation since 1967. Most of the residents are Arab, though Jews have settled in the region during the past four decades. The 1993 Oslo Accords declared the final status of the West Bank to be subject to an elusive agreement between Israel and the Palestinian leadership.
Israel agreed to a freeze on settlement construction as part of the road map agreement signed in 2003, and the Palestinians have said such a freeze is a precondition for resuming negotiations.
The Washington Post noted Aug. 19 that Netanyahu’s refusal to halt all settlement construction has played well among Israelis, who previously have punished prime ministers who clashed with the United States. Netanyahu has said he supports a two-state solution as long as the Palestinian state is demilitarized and as long as Jerusalem remains Israel’s undivided capital.
Huckabee said if he were president, he would defer to Israel’s leadership. He also said he is already planning his next trip to Israel in January.
Compiled by Baptist Press staff writer Erin Roach.