First Trump announces Israel trip, then Carson

Carson has faced scrutiny regarding his foreign policy experience.

December 7, 2015 12:53
3 minute read.

Ben Carson . (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)

A week after Republican front-runner Donald Trump announced that he will be coming to Israel this month, one of his main challengers, Ben Carson, announced that he, too, would travel to Israel in the near future.

Carson, a retired neurosurgeon, has come under fire for his lack of foreign policy experience. He told Bloomberg in an interview published Monday that he would come to Israel before the February 1 Iowa caucuses, the first event of the primary season.

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Though Carson did not meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu when he came on his first visit to Israel last December, with aides to the prime minister at the time citing “scheduling problems,” he is expected to meet with Netanyahu the next time he is here.

A spokesman for the PMO has said that Netanyahu’s policy is to meet with all candidates, Republicans and Democrats, and to give them “equal treatment,” meaning that each will get a photo opportunity, without statements, before or after a meeting with the premier. This policy appears to be designed to ensure that Netanyahu is not seen as taking sides in the race.

One source in Jerusalem said that with the US campaign now kicking into high gear in advance of the first primaries in two months’ time, a number of the candidates are expected to arrive in the near future.

All 14 Republican candidates, including Carson, spoke last week at a forum put on by the Republican Jewish Coalition.

Carson read a lengthy, prepared speech and, according to several reports, fell flat, not helped by his much-maligned mispronunciation of Hamas as “hummus.”

“The Middle East is certainly one of the most complicated regions in the world, I mean, really complicated,” he said during that address. “It is clear to me that the Obama administration has zero understanding of this region, and due to the policies of our president and his State Department, the situation in the region really has gone from bad to worse.”

Carson traveled to Jordan at the end of November, and visited a Syrian refugee camp.

“Where there are problems, such as with the Syrian refugees, I want to find out for myself what’s going on, because if we listen to the standard narrative, you know, you get either that we have to take in tens of thousands of these people or we’re heartless individuals,” Carson told Bloomberg.

“Those are not the only two choices. It became very clear going over there that there’s another choice, which demonstrates our humanity – that we do have a heart, but also demonstrates that we have brains – and that is take care of them in the refugee camps.”

During his visit to Israel last year, Carson met Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, visited an army base, and took a six-hour helicopter tour of the country with former deputy chief of staff and National Security Council head Uzi Dayan During that visit he was also interviewed by The Jerusalem Post. Asked what would change in the US-Israel relations were he to become president, Carson replied he “would want it to be very clear that people who are allies are allies. They are our friends, they are not people who should ever be questioning our relationship and our loyalty.”

Carson said the US has a responsibility to lead in the region and the world, not to “simply sit back and react to events as they occur, because that basically creates a vacuum, and historically vacuums are always filled by someone. The likelihood that in this case it will be filled by someone more benign than the United States seems relatively small.”

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