Palestinians have a right to a homeland, but not within the boundaries of Israel, former governor of Arkansas and 2008 GOP presidential candidate Mike Huckabee suggested at a meeting with reporters in Jerusalem on Tuesday morning.
Huckabee advocated for a one-state solution, thereby challenging the policies of both Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and US President Barack Obama.
Huckabee, who many consider the favorite for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012, is here on a four-day visit sponsored by Ateret Cohanim, the organization spearheading efforts to buy property for Jewish homes in east Jerusalem.
In an exchange with The Jerusalem Post, he said that while both Israelis and Palestinians have a right to a self-governed homeland, it would be impossible for the countries to live side-by-side.
"The point is that if you try to layer two governments on top of each other, there is going to be nothing but conflict," Huckabee said when asked if the Palestinians had a right to a homeland within territories currently controlled by Israel. "I don't know how that would work. That comes back to the question of how you designate two owners of the same car."
"Historically, the international community has already said Israel has a right to be here, that this is going to be their homeland," Huckabee said.
The same international community that granted Palestine to Jews ought to decide where Palestinians should establish their homeland, he said.
"The question is, should the Palestinians have a place to call their own?" he asked. "Yes, I have no problem with that. Should it be in the middle of the Jewish homeland? That's what I think has to be honestly assessed as virtually unrealistic."
However, Huckabee backed away from a suggestion he made in 2007 that the Palestinian state could be formed in Egypt or Saudi Arabia.
"It wasn't so much of a plan, I think, as it was a speculation," he said. "I was speculating. My question was, why does it [the Palestinian state] have to be here?"
It was unreasonable for the world to expect Israel give up any of its land for a Palestinian state, he said.
"They [the Jews] have been given a tiny minuscule strip of land to upon which to call home," he said. "To ask them to further give increasing amounts acreage away for what is hoped to be a peaceful arrangement - it has not resulted in creating any level of peace."
Huckabee's one-state solution is politically to the right of the prime minister, who recently came out in favor of a two-state solution as long as the Palestinian state is demilitarized and does not pose a threat, and as long as Jerusalem remains Israel's undivided capital.
"In my vision of peace, two peoples live freely, side-by-side, in amity and mutual respect," Netanyahu in an address delivered at Bar-Ilan University in June. "Each will have its own flag, its own national anthem, and its own government."
"And how is that two-state solution working out for them?" Huckabee asked reporters on Tuesday morning.
But he said that despite his preference for a one-state solution, if he were president, he would defer to Israel's leadership on the issue.
"I would pursue allowing Israelis to self-govern. If that's what they decided, then that's their prerogative," he said in reference to a two-state solution. "The Israeli government, not another government, should decide where Jews live inside the boundary of Israel."
Huckabee, an ordained Baptist minister on his 11th trip to Israel, said he has not yet decided whether will run for the White House in 2012.
After meeting with Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat on Tuesday, Huckabee took a tour of the West Bank, starting in Ma'aleh Adumim, where Mayor Benny Kashriel explained how American policy was preventing the building of the E-1 neighborhood that would link his city to Jerusalem.
From there he went to Bet El and received an explanation of the area's historic centrality to the Jewish people from Sarah Netanyahu's brother, Hagi Ben-Artzi, and then to Har Bracha, and one of the first settlement outposts - Givot Olam near Itamar and Nablus.
The trip affirmed for him that "this is a very, very special land. It has been an amazing place to watch over the years, from the first time I saw it in 1973, through the various times until today. I continue to be amazed at places that I remember desolate at one time, now producing food, commerce and families. The dry bones have come alive," he said, in reference to the prophecy in the book of Ezekiel.
Huckabee said Israelis have the right to live wherever they want.
"It was very telling" that when his tour bus got to the outskirts of Nablus, "we couldn't go in, because Jewish people couldn't go there. Arab people can go to the Jewish parts of Jerusalem, and to Jewish parts of Israel, but the Jewish people could not go there. It was sad. I don't think a lot of Americans understand there are very seriously restricted zones," he said.