'After Egypt, US must tell allies it won’t abandon them'

Exclusive to ‘Post’: Possible presidential candidate Mike Huckabee says land for peace in Israeli-Palestinian conflict is "not rational."

February 2, 2011 02:24
Mike Huckabee.

huckabee_311. (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)

The US needs to assure its allies that it won’t walk away from them when the going gets tough, former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, widely expected to run in the 2012 Republican presidential primaries, said on Tuesday.

Huckabee, in an interview with The Jerusalem Post, was responding to the criticism heard increasingly in Israel in recent days that the US unceremoniously abandoned Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, a strong US ally for the past 30 years.

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One of the “fallout factors” from the upheaval in Egypt, Huckabee said when asked if Israel needed to be concerned that under certain circumstances it, too, could be cut loose by Washington, “is that it is going to be incumbent upon the US to reassure its allies that there is not going to be a consistency of abandonment when it comes to difficulty and troubles that a nation might face.”

Huckabee, routinely showing up in national polls as one of the Republican presidential frontrunners, said the Obama administration should have acknowledged the positive accomplishments of Mubarak’s tenure, including his preservation of peace and security in Egypt over the past three decades, and that he kept the peace with Israel.

“This would not have required us to approve everything he did, or deny the rights of the people of Egypt to demand a change of government,” Huckabee said. “But I think it would have been an important symbol to send to the rest of the world, that we don’t just walk away from long-standing allies.”

Huckabee said the administration’s mistake in not having nodded in any way toward Mubarak is compounded when contrasted with its inactivity when demonstrators took to the streets in Iran in 2009 to protest the elections there.

Unlike Egypt, Huckabee said, Iran is “anti-American, anti- Israel, anti-peace, and it wants to build a nuclear stockpile so it can blow up the world. It would have been a little helpful had [US President Barack] Obama offered some form of support and accommodation for the protesters in Iran a year ago.”

Huckabee said that Americans were torn, on the one hand, between recognizing the desire of the Egyptian protesters for more freedom and democracy, and, on the other hand, being fearful that the end result could be a more authoritarian government than the one being replaced.

“An uprising like this is usually a three-act play,” he said. “The first act is when the citizens take to the streets, and – if successful – they overthrow the government. Act two is when wellintentioned, well-meaning reformers try to form a government and lead. The chances are that they are unprepared and lack an organization and institutional capacity to lead a government. And that leads to act three.”

The concluding act, he said, is “when a well-organized extremist movement – in this case the Muslim Brotherhood – steps in and becomes far worse than what was before. We saw that in Iran, and essentially during the Russian Revolution.”

It is the third act, Huckabee said, that everyone needs to fear in Egypt.

If the true reformers are not able to step into the vacuum, the Muslim Brotherhood most likely will, “and they are bad people,” he said.

Huckabee is currently in Israel on a private visit, his 13th to the country. He met with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Monday, and on Wednesday will begin leading a group of Christian pilgrims to holy sites. As he has done in the past, Huckabee has made a point during his visit of doing something very few US politicians do – visiting West Bank settlements and Jewish neighborhoods in east Jerusalem.

Huckabee said he was unconcerned that these visits or his strong support for the settlements might harm him politically in the US.

Although Huckabee has not yet officially declared himself a candidate and has not begun aggressively raising campaign funds, this week a GOP political consulting firm called Strategic National put him way ahead of Mitt Romney, Sarah Palin, Newt Gingrich and Tim Pawlenty in Iowa, where the first caucuses will be held in a year’s time.

Huckabee won those caucuses in his unsuccessful bid in 2008 to win the Republican nomination.

“It may not be popular position, but I think it is the right position,” Huckabee said of his support for the settlements. “I’d rather have people angry because they knew where I stood, rather than because they thought I stood somewhere and it turns out I didn’t.

“It really comes down to this,” he said. “Do the Jews have an indigenous right to a homeland or not? If they do, what is that homeland? Is it the boundaries that are indigenous boundaries that go back thousands of years? And if there is a decision on the part of Israel to yield over land, whether in Judea or Samaria, the question would be, what do they get for that? That is their decision, not mine.”

Huckabee said that so far what Israel got in return for giving up land was “rockets in their bedrooms, synagogues and businesses. I’m not sure why you would keep giving more land away. What do you want? More rockets, more encroachment, more violence?”

Huckabee said he was also not concerned that his position on the settlements and east Jerusalem might detract from his stature in the eyes of many international leaders.

The person who should not be seen as serious, Huckabee said, is he who would “continue to put forth a doctrine of land for peace, when the ultimate definition of insanity is to keep doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.

“How does any rational person honestly believe that we are going to end up with a peace agreement as long as we are not asking anything of the Palestinians in acknowledging the right of Israel to exist, but we ask the Israelis to continue to let their borders get closer and closer, bringing closer the people who hate them and want to see them annihilated. I don’t think that’s rational. I don’t take people seriously who believe that.”

Huckabee said that in the 1980s people also did not take Ronald Reagan seriously when he called the Soviet Union the “evil empire” and said the US and the world would be far better off “with a strong defense, rather than a weak one.

“They called him naïve, and he was an object of derision for much of the international community,” Huckabee said. “But when the Berlin Wall fell, when the Soviet Union collapsed, nobody was laughing at him then.”

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