(Photo: AP Images)
Now that the U.S. and other P5+1 powers made an interim nuclear deal with Iran without Israel's involvement, the Jewish state is free to act as it sees fit on the Iranian issue without consulting America, former Arkansas governor and 2008 presidential candidate Mike Huckabee said in an exclusive interview with JNS.org.
The U.S. "has indicated that they are going to act independently of Israel as it relates to Iran," Huckabee said, calling that a "very foolish policy."
"I think now [the Israelis] have really a license to act without having to be scolded for not having consulted the U.S. for their plans," he said.
When asked about the possibility of making another presidential run in 2016, Huckabee, the runner-up to U.S. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) in the 2008 Republican primary, said, "I'm looking at it very seriously." Huckabee—an ordained Southern Baptist minister who currently hosts the talk show "Huckabee" on Fox News—said he is having exploratory meetings to determine "whether people who I trust, and people whose views I have confidence in, believe that there is a pathway forward for me through the primary."
What would Jewish Republicans think of a Huckabee run in 2016? Fred Zeidman, a Houston businessman and major donor to Republican presidential campaigns, told JNS.org, "Israel could have no greater supporter than Mike Huckabee, and as far as any concerns we have about the safety and security of the state of Israel, we couldn't ask for better than Mike Huckabee."
"You couldn't ask for a more passionate or truthful candidate than Mike Huckabee," Zeidman added. "Whether you agree with all of his social positions or not, there's no question about where he stands and his willingness to be open about them, to discuss them, and to do what he feels is right for America."
Huckabee told JNS.org that when he ran for president in 2008, outreach to the Jewish community "was always a relationship that we enjoyed and tried to foster." That year's general election saw 78 percent of Jewish voters choose Obama over McCain, and the Jewish electorate's support for Obama decreased to 69 percent in his 2012 race against Mitt Romney. Does Huckabee believe the downtrend trend in Jewish support for Democrats will continue in the 2016 presidential election? "I would certainly hope so," he said, questioning why anyone committed to the safety and security of the future of Israel "would be supportive of the policies of Barack Obama, which you can call the most frighteningly non-supportive [U.S.] policies on the state of Israel since its inception."
"I can't imagine that somebody could look at those policies and say, 'Boy, [Obama has] really got the Israelis' back'—because he doesn't," Huckabee said.
Huckabee said he can understand traditional Jewish support for Democratic candidates based on their views aligning socially and economically, but he does not understand Jewish support for Democrats "as it relates to the policy of a secure Israel."
"If that's a priority, and that becomes a defining factor in how people vote, then it's inconceivable to me that they could give their support to someone who supports the current administration's policies toward Israel," he said.
On the Obama administration's current brokering of Israeli-Palestinian conflict negotiations, Huckabee said the U.S. should only be engaging in such talks if it insists that the Palestinians both acknowledge Israel's right to exist and "cleanse their textbooks" of materials that teach children to hate Jews.
"Those are to me fundamental prerequisites to any kind of discussion regarding a peace deal," Huckabee said.
Huckabee's comments on Palestinian teaching materials as they relate to negotiations echo recent sentiments expressed by Israeli leaders such as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon, and Strategic Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz, who have all attributed a lack of progress in the current talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority to Palestinian incitement. Recent reports by Palestinian Media Watch reveal Palestinian soccer teams named after terrorists, a Palestinian Authority TV (PA TV) broadcast for children teaching that the Devil and Jews are united in hatred of the Prophet Muhammad, sayings attributed to Hitler in a PA-associated youth magazine, and a statement (accompanied by a photo of a man holding a rifle) on Fatah's Facebook page that says it is "the blood of Martyrs that draws the borders of the [Palestinian] homeland."
In the U.S., the issue of anti-Israel teaching materials has also garnered attention as of late. In a recent advertisement in Boston-area newspapers, the nonprofit Americans for Peace and Tolerance called out school officials in Newton, Mass., over the alleged presence of anti-Israel texts in Newton public schools, including "The Arab World Studies Notebook," which claims that Israeli soldiers murdered hundreds of Palestinian nurses in Israeli prisons; "A Muslim Primer," which claims that astronaut Neil Armstrong converted to Islam; "Flashpoints: Guide to World History," which asserts that Jerusalem is the capital of "Palestine;" and other materials.
Asked what the appropriate course of action should be on the city and state levels regarding a situation such as the alleged anti-Israel texts in Newton schools, Huckabee said, "If it's being taught as curriculum as if it's correct, then I would be aghast at that. I would think that the state board of education should make it very clear that that's not an education, that's an indoctrination, and not purview of being at a school."
A frequent visitor to the Jewish state, Huckabee said an experience "that will forever be embedded in me" is the first time he took his daughter Sarah, then 11 years old, to the Yad Vashem Holocaust museum and memorial.
"I saw the impact that it had on [Sarah] and continues to have on her; she's 31 years old now," Huckabee said.
In February, while leading an Israel trip for evangelical Christians, Huckabee at a press briefing called on Obama—who would make his first visit to Israel as president the following month—to announce the release of imprisoned Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard. On Nov. 21, Pollard entered his 29th year in U.S. prison; he is the only person in U.S. history to receive a life sentence for spying for an American ally.
"Pollard has been in prison longer than most people who have done more than he did, and I think particularly in light of his current health situation, [releasing him] would be a nice gesture toward our allies in Israel, and it would be I think a very important humanitarian gesture as well," Huckabee told JNS.org.