In a blitz tour of Israel and one Israeli settlement to fundraise and campaign for his presidential bid, GOP candidate and former governor of Arkansas Mike Huckabee managed one major gaffe, and doubled down views about Israel that are far to the right of any other Republican runner– and most of the Israeli government, too.
Huckabee referred to Russia as the “Soviet Union,” and said the West Bank borders Israel’s “sworn enemies”—a reference to Jordan, which is an ally of Israel–when speaking to journalists at a Jerusalem hotel. In what the Guardian’s Peter Beaumont called a “confused and garbled press conference,” that had “no policy he could articulate on the future of Palestinians,” Huckabee also called the West Bank, occupied Palestinian territory, by the biblical name “Judea and Samaria.”
“Score one for Mr. Huckabee on terminology,” said The New York Times’ Jodi Rudoren, noting Huckabee’s careful use of lingua pro-Israel. She suggested the trip was a not so veiled attempt to secure favor from top Republican donors back home: “It is, in a way, part of an invisible primary to win the heart – and wallet — of Sheldon Adelson, the megadonor who has questioned the existence of the Palestinian peoplehood.”
After the event Huckabee met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and posted a handshake of the two, along with a message reiterating a frequent slogan of support of the Israeli leader on social media. “He is a Churchill in a world full of Chamberlains” wrote Huckabee.
On Tuesday Huckabee spoke at a fundraiser in the Israeli settlement of Shiloh, sponsored by Simon Falic, chairman of Duty Free America, who was also a chief donor to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s 2012 campaign (Moreover, the Falic family has financed an archeological project in Shiloh and owns a winery in another West Bank settlement). In attendance was reality star and outdoorsman Willie Robertson from the show Duck Dynasty (which is filmed in Louisiana). Taking questions from press about the stop into occupied territory, Huckabee stated he viewed the settlement—and all of the West Bank—as part of Israel. Here’s Huckabee explaining his decision to visit Shiloh:
I wanted to show solidarity with the country that most reflects a mirror image of the American spirit, and also to show solidarity to the Israeli people and to show their extreme disgust with any deal with Iran.
I would think if you’re going to visit Israel, you should visit all of Israel and that would include Judea and Samaria.
Huckabee went as far as to compare Shiloh to Manhattan, stating that labeling either as occupied is “laughable.” From the Times of Israel:
“If I came and said, we need to end our occupation of Manhattan, I’m pretty sure that most Americans would find that laughable,” he said. “The Israelis have a strong connection to Judea and Samaria.”
— Gov. Mike Huckabee (@GovMikeHuckabee) August 18, 2015
Huckabee also posted a video to social media filmed in the West Bank, referring to the location as Jerusalem. And he likened Palestinians to ISIS.
“What is important about this area is that like so many times you’ll hear ‘why won’t the Israelis just give up some land?’ Well if you could stand where I’m standing now you would understand that giving up land is essentially not giving land for peace, it’s giving up land and giving up peace because nothing good would come out of it other than putting people who are sworn to Israel’s destruction even closer to them. I don’t think you would let some people from ISIS joyfully buy the home next to you and move into your neighborhood.”
Huckabee is by far the most ardent supporter of Israel on the GOP ticket. He has made countless trips to Israel in the past and leads an annual tour to Israel guiding hundreds of supporters.