(photo credit: AP [file])
Former Arkansas governor and US presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee will take part in a reception at the Shepherd's Hotel in east Jerusalem during his visit to Israel next week, but the Fox News contributor will not be broadcasting a live show from the site, as was previously reported.
Representatives from Ateret Cohanim, which is sponsoring Huckabee's visit, confirmed on Wednesday he would be appear next week at the now-shuttered hotel, where 20 apartments are meant to be built and which has become one of the flashpoints between Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and the Obama administration, in the dispute over Jewish building rights in the capital's annexed parts.
Huckabee's stop at the hotel will be part of a larger tour around the country, meant to highlight opposition to recent US policies, in particular the Obama administration's demands that Israel halt construction in east Jerusalem.
"This is an opportunity to shine the spotlight on Obama's policy in Jerusalem, which has just been a horror," New York State Assemblyman Dov Hikind told The Jerusalem Post.
Hikind, who will be traveling with Huckabee on the tour, also said he is planning to bring thousands of Americans, to Israel soon in a show of solidarity with the Jewish state.
"But Huckabee's arrival is significant because, this is a guy who's a major figure in America, and in my opinion will be a presidential candidate again," Hikind said. "To have a guy like him, you know, from Arkansas, come at this particular time, and say the kinds of things he's going to say, it's going to send a very strong message to the Israeli people and to the American administration."
Trip organizers were equally enthused, telling the Post that Huckabee was currently the No. 1 Republican consideration for the 2012 presidential race, and "one of the best friends Israel has in America."
"Huckabee has also said, in a personal conversation with me, that one of his first acts, should he be elected president, would be to move the American Embassy to Jerusalem," said the trip's organizer, Dr. Joseph Frager, who chairs the American Friends of Ateret Cohanim.
While the Democrats in Israel organization did not respond to requests for comment on Huckabee's planned appearance before press time, the news that Huckabee, who is also an ordained Southern Baptist minister, would arrive at the hotel was also received warmly by the International Christian Embassy in Jerusalem, whose spokesman, David Parsons, told the Post that the ICEJ "was founded on the very issue that Huckabee is coming to address."
"We were founded on the 3,000 year-old Jewish claim to Jerusalem," Parsons said. "And we think that the US policy here has been absurd - not just under this administration, but for many years, and for a figure like Huckabee to come at this time and show his support is great news."
"The longer the question over Jerusalem is left open, the longer it begins to become the capital of everyone else except the Jews."
The Shepherd's Hotel became the focus of American-Israeli tensions last month, after the US demanded a halt to plans by Ateret Cohanim to construct the apartments at the site.
The hotel was purchased by American millionaire Irving Moskowitz in 1985 and is located near a government compound that includes several ministries and the Israel Police national headquarters.