Mike Huckabee served as the 44th Governor of Arkansas and currently hosts the Fox News Channel talk show Huckabee.
Former Governor of Arkansas and 2008 Republican Presidential Candidate
---interviewed by Charley J. Levine
Governor of Arkansas. Presidential candidate. Pastor. Host of an eponymous Fox News television political talk show—where he jams on his bass guitar with guest rockers. Mike Huckabee, 52, has a growing résumé—will the next entry be Republican presidential nominee? In February, he brought a group of 200 American tourists to Israel, where he also sat down with Israeli officials.
What impact does a common Judeo-Christian heritage have on the American commitment to Israel?
There are two [principles] at work. There is a biblical connection. I remind my Jewish friends, a person can be a Jew without Christianity. But a person cannot be a Christian without Judaism. Christians don’t dismiss the Old Testament. Everything about Jewish history is also Christian history. Everything that matters to a person of the Jewish faith matters to a Christian. Therefore, preservation and protection of a Jewish holy site or the Jewish heritage is...the protection of the Christian heritage. Some Jewish people are concerned, ‘Why is it that we are so supportive? What is the real deal?’ Part of the real deal is for ourselves, it is a preservation of our own heritage.
And the second principle?
The second reason is that the relationship between the United States and Israel is not merely organizational. It is organic. The bond between our two countries has more to do with what we are about than any specific religious affiliation. We are tied together by a common heritage of having escaped tyranny for our creation, banding together under the most adverse situations [to create a land] where our families could live in freedom and personal liberty. When you look at the histories of the two countries, the similarities are striking. Israel should never have existed. There is no way that 600,000 displaced Jewish people escaping from all parts of the world could come together to create a nation that survives. From the very day it came into being, [there were] constant wars and attacks. And every time it was challenged, it not only won, but it consolidated its land. That is pretty amazing. The U.S. has a similar history. Its people came from the tyranny of Europe. They were a bunch of farmers who grabbed muskets off their walls and were better suited to rabbit hunting than fighting the British Army. There is no way we should have won the American Revolution, but we did. My country should never have survived its many challenges of civil wars, world wars and all the serious challenges it went through. Many Americans look at Israel and look in the mirror.
Does Israel have lessons to share with America on the domestic security front?
Definitely yes. I had the former head of El Al security on my Fox TV show recently. It was a terrific interview with wonderful audience feedback. Our approach to security is vastly different from that of Israel. Israel understands the common denominator in all the terrorist attacks is not shoes, underwear, guns, bombs or knives. It is people. Israel assesses people, not shoes. We are constantly developing new machines to see if we can strip-search a person to see if they have a metal device on their person. The danger that person is to us is [not what we can] X-ray. It’s the fanatical Islamic jihadism in his head that is the threat. If we take his gun away, he’ll bring a knife. If we take his knife away, he’ll bring explosives in his shoes. If we take his shoes away, he’ll wear it in his underwear.
Does Israeli security focus more on what’s inside the head?
Absolutely. No machine will reveal what is in there. Israelis understand this. Our approach is irrational and, frankly, it can be humiliating to law-abiding citizens. Israel is accused of profiling passengers. Actually Israel profiles everybody. They profile indiscriminately, and so it’s not profiling when you don’t single people out. They ask me the same questions they ask you. Did you pack your own bags? Why are you going? Did anyone give you anything? They’ve been highly trained to find out whether there’s someone who has perhaps influenced me to take a package that may be a bomb. If we were profiling, we would look at 18- to 25-year-old Muslim males. But how do you figure that El Al caught the Irish pregnant woman who was not a Muslim male but happened to be living with a Muslim boyfriend? When she was going to visit Israel, he packed some things for her to bring. Well, it turned out that he didn’t love her enough to keep her from being blown up. But the questions and the thoroughness of Israeli security discovered that she might be an unknowing, unwilling murderer. Our methods wouldn’t have necessarily found that because we would have checked her shoes and underwear and looked for a knife, but we wouldn’t have found anything.
Is it too late to stop Iran from going nuclear?
No, not too late, but the clock is ticking. It’s not too late until they are fully weaponized…. Until that moment, there is at least time to stop it by causing the destruction [of their nuclear facilities and] seeing a change in government…. But we don’t have a lot of time.
Does Obama have the will to stop Iran?
The honest answer is I don’t know. I would like to say yes. I hope that we would truly back up the comments that have been made that it is unacceptable for Iran to have nuclear capability. But that means we must be willing to take any measure necessary to ensure that doesn’t happen. It would be nice to do that in a way that involves the entire world…. But…I think we need to be prepared to act unilaterally, if that is the only option.
Do you plan to run for president again? If so, when will you make your plans known?
Not before the end of 2010. It remains to be seen whether I’ll make another run. I really enjoy what I’m doing. I’m enjoying the chance to comment freely on issues that are important to me without spending most of my time spending money to say it and fending off critics who didn’t like that I did say it.
How involved should America be in the specifics of Israeli-Palestinian diplomacy?
It would be out of line for me to recommend Israel to take a specific course of action. But I can say that, as an American who is very pro-Israel, who supports Israel’s right to exist and have security and safety, I do not feel that the American decision should be one that forces a specific requirement on the Israelis that would in fact make them more vulnerable and less secure. That is Israel’s decision to make. Our decision as a country is to be supportive of our allies as long as [they] are within the boundaries of international law and propriety. For us to prescribe to them a specific direction, whether it is a total ban of any settlement activity or a partial ban, I don’t think the U.S. has any grounds to demand a cessation of settlement activity. People have the right to live wherever they want to in their own country. I don’t think we would appreciate it if anyone, whether it was Britain’s Gordon Brown or France’s Nicolas Sarkozy, would come to the United States and say ‘I don’t think any more people are to leave California and go to Texas.’
You just had a private meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu. What impression did you take away with you?
I have very real admiration for him. I think he is one of the great leaders of the world right now. He is a person of tremendous integrity at a time when that is hard to find. He is an excellent communicator, but more important, he has a sense of clarity about not only his role as a leader but [about] the role of Israel and his destiny to lead it and protect it.
How about some specifics?
His vision on economics very much mirrors mine: Lower taxes are better than higher taxes. The purpose of government is to facilitate free enterprise and innovation. He demonstrated these principles as finance minister and as prime minister, and generally his views toward Iran are exactly right. He understands there is a genuine threat posed by a fanatical dictator, an Islamic extremist. This is not just unacceptable to Israel. It should be absolutely unacceptable to everyone in the world—to the United States, to Russia, to China, to the European Union. I can’t think of any good thing that could come out of a nuclear-armed Iran.
Reprinted with permission from the author and Hadassah Magazine
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