McCain to keep hands off peace process

Democratic candidates Obama, Clinton both back active diplomacy, Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.

us special 2 224 (photo credit: )
us special 2 224
(photo credit: )
Democratic presidential candidates Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton backed active diplomacy begun by the Bush administration to facilitate Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, while Republican candidate John McCain took a more hands-off approach, in response to a recent questionnaire. Their perspectives were given as part of a 10-question survey the Los Angeles-based Simon Wiesenthal presented to the three campaigns and released on Tuesday. They were asked how they would achieve a Palestinian state alongside a secure Israel, and about issues ranging from terrorism to immigration to anti-Semitism. "When I am president, I will make a personal commitment to an ongoing effort by the United States to help Israel and the Palestinians achieve the goal of two states living side-by-side in peace and security," Obama said, in one of the few areas he gave support for the Bush administration's policy approach. The parties themselves must ultimately shape the agreement, and "we should be an active partner, lending support, offering ideas, and bolstering agreements that the parties reach," he said. Clinton didn't specifically mention the Bush initiative, but she said, "I believe that US diplomacy is critical to resolving this conflict, and we must engage in regional diplomacy to gain Arab support for a Palestinian leadership that is committed to peace," and, "The US government's role is to support Israel as it makes the tough choices for peace and that the final status issues should be negotiated by the parties themselves, with the United States playing a facilitating role." While McCain said he would "reaffirm our commitment to a two-state solution," he did not mention an American diplomatic role in realizing that goal. "Real peace won't be achieved so long as the Hamas government [in Gaza] refuses to renounce suicide bombings and other terrorist acts or even acknowledge Israel's right to exist. As recent history unfortunately demonstrates, the Palestinians are not now able to make the compromises necessary for a lasting peace," McCain said. "I would work to further isolate the enemies of Israel such as Iran, Syria, Hamas and Hizbullah," he added. All three candidates said Israel should make its own decisions, free from US pressure, and that Israel must be able to retain its character as a Jewish state, and stressed the importance that America placed on a strong relationship with a secure Israel. Obama was the only one who alluded even obliquely to the possibility of using strategies other than diplomacy to deal with the Iranian nuclear threat. "Diplomacy - coupled with a clear indication that all options remain on the table - will ensure that we can impose the tough sanctions and increased economic pressure that will be required to show Iran that its refusal to live up to its international commitments has real costs," he said. The other candidates also talked of the need for sanctions and economic pressure. Clinton emphasized the need for engagement with Teheran, though she criticized Obama for being willing to hold unconditional talks with Iran's top leaders. "I believe the Bush administration's policy of refusing to talk to our adversaries has been very damaging to our security," she said. "We should pursue the kind of carrot-and-stick diplomacy with Iran that has been effective with North Korea and Libya." McCain also stressed international efforts, but said that the US must be willing to work with countries outside of the United Nations. "The opposition of Russia and China to effective sanctions on Iran - and on issues ranging from Myanmar to Darfur to North Korea - is why I proposed the creation of a League of Democracies in which Israel would be welcomed." That forum, he said, should work on pressuring Iran.