US Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee speaks to the 42nd annual meeting of the American Legislative Exchange Council in San Diego.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
While Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is on jury duty in New York, and Marco Rubio and John Kasich are stumping at the Iowa State Fair, former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee will travel to Israel Tuesday and hold an afternoon fund-raiser in the West Bank settlement of Shiloh.
The event – a rare one for US presidential candidates – was arranged by Miami-based Simon Falic, who with his brothers owns Duty Free Americas Inc., the largest duty-free operator in the US.
Falic, who has financially supported a number of projects in the Shiloh area, is also a generous contributor to pro-Israel Republican and Democratic politicians. In addition, he has contributed to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s political campaigns.
Huckabee is scheduled to meet Netanyahu during his brief visit. A spokesman for the prime minister said it is Netanyahu’s practice to meet with all the presidential contenders.
Huckabee, who has come to Israel dozens of times over the years since his first visit in 1973 – many times leading church groups – last met Netanyahu in Jerusalem in February, just before the prime minister’s controversial address to Congress.
Huckabee explained in a CNN interview on Sunday why it was important for him to be in Israel, right now, rather than Iowa, saying, “I have got a lot of friends there. And a lot of Americans live there. We’re doing some fund-raising, but, more importantly, I will also be visiting with a number of officials and discussing the Iranian deal, because I think it’s the most dangerous situation that we face, not just for the Middle East, but for the rest of the world, in a long time.”
Huckabee came under a barrage of criticism, including from many in Israel and the Jewish community, for saying last month that with the Iran nuclear deal US President Barack Obama was ultimately taking the Israelis and marching “them to the door of the oven.”
Ambassador to the US Ron Dermer rejected those remarks, saying “these are not words that I would use or that I think are appropriate.”
Netanyahu, in a briefing with journalists shortly thereafter, endorsed Dermer’s reaction.
Huckabee, in the CNN interview, said the nuclear deal was “essentially arming and equipping a terrorist state. The Iranian government is not to be trusted. And for 36 years, they kidnapped Americans. They have killed Americans. They hold Americans hostage right now. And we’re being pushed to get into a deal that gives us nothing, but gives the Iranians the capacity to ultimately end up with a nuclear weapon, and that’s just insane.”
Huckabee, in the Israel section on his campaign website, wrote of the Jewish state: “In a world of uncertainty, evil and moral insanity, Israel is a shining light of moral clarity. The enemies of Israel are the enemies of America. Sadly, this [Obama] administration spends more time berating Israel for building houses in the lands given to Abraham than telling the Iranians to stop building bombs pointed at us.”
Huckabee is not the first presidential candidate to see fund-raising potential in Israel.
Mitt Romney came to Israel in July 2012, after sewing up the Republican nomination and a few months before the election he lost to Obama, accompanied by some Jewish contributors. He raised $1.5 million during that trip, including about $200,000 from American Israelis living here. The rest of the contributions came from those who accompanied him on the visit.
Israel is not the only country candidates visit on fund-raising tours. For instance, Romney raised $2m. in 2012 from Americans living in London during a visit there.