Israel will continue to enjoy full support, even from Democrats, despite the current tension surrounding Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s upcoming speech to Congress, former Arkansas governor and Republican presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee said Sunday.
Speaking to Israeli journalists in Jerusalem, Huckabee compared Iran to a “snake” that cannot be trusted and should be “killed,” and said Netanyahu might be “uniquely qualified” to warn the world of the threat Tehran would pose if it acquired nuclear weapons.
Several Democratic members of Congress indicated they would boycott Netanyahu’s March 3 address, in which he is expected to attack the US government’s effort to finalize a nuclear agreement with Iran. The controversy surrounding House Speaker John Boehner’s invitation to the prime minister without informing the administration has further hurt already tense relations between Washington and Jerusalem, with politicians and Jewish groups calling on him to cancel.
Huckabee, a contender for the Republican presidential ticket in 2016, wholeheartedly endorsed Netanyahu’s intention to go ahead with the address.
“Americans need to know what those dangers are with Iran and that the Iranian threat is not unique to Israel, that it does, in fact, involve the United States and the rest of the world,” he said.
Support for Israel won’t become a bipartisan issue, asserted Huckabee. “There is still strong support for Israel [in Congress]. Now there’s not strong support for John Boehner among the Democrats, so you have to understand what’s going on beneath the surface. This is not a snub to the prime minister. This is the internal politics between Democrats and Republicans.”
Many Congressional Democrats might boycott the speech out of “political courtesy and/or necessity” toward the White House, he suggested. “That does not indicate in any way that they’re not strong Democratic supporters of Israel. Because they are.”
Israel is one of the few issues in American politics that have never been a partisan issue and the current tension will not change that, said Huckabee, who served as governor of Arkansas from 1996 until 2007, and ran for president in 2008. “That’s more of an internal squabble that happens just as there are some internal squabbles that happen in the Israeli government.”
If he were president and were to find himself in a similar situation, he would “make lemonade out of a lemon” by publicly welcoming the prime minister to the White House regardless of any diplomatic irregularities in the way the invitation was extended.
“Then when you get behind closed doors you beat the daylights out of him, that’s fine. But you don’t disagree with your friends on the front pages of the papers,” Huckabee said. “There is a time and place to disagree. You don’t yell at your wife in front of the neighbors.”
The former Fox news television show host also criticized President Barack Obama for refusing to meet Netanyahu in the White House due to the visit’s close proximity to the March 17 Knesset elections. If he were president, he would not put limits to visits by allies if urgent matters were on the agenda, he promised. “When there are imminent issues in the world — and there are — it seems that the issues take precedence over the personalities involved.”
Huckabee gave great importance to Netanyahu’s planned address to Congress, suggesting it could turn the tide of history and prevent a bad Iran deal. “Of course the speech matters,” he said. “Did FDR’s speech after Pearl Harbor matter? You bet it did. Did Churchill’s speech to the Brits matter, when he gave them courage? You bet it mattered. Did Ronald Reagan’s speech, when he said, ‘Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall,’ matter? You bet it did.”
Netanyahu is capable of explaining to the American people why a nuclear Iran is an imminent danger not just to Israel but to the US and to world peace, Huckabee added. “And he may be uniquely qualified to do that. He may have one of the few opportunities to give a full-throated explanation of the significance of this very delicate situation.”
Given Tehran’s history of lies about its nuclear program, its threats to annihilate Israel and its support for terrorist groups, Huckabee said he cannot understand why anybody would think the Iranians can be trusted.
“When you’re dealing with snakes, you’re dealing with an entity with which you cannot reason,” he said. “You can’t pet the snake, you can’t feed it, you don’t try to make friends with it, you don’t invite it into your home — you kill the snake, because the snake will bite you if it has the chance. And the only way to prevent the snake from biting you is to keep your distance, or kill the snake before it has a chance to get close enough to bite you.”
Negotiating with Iran “is like trusting the snake,” he continued. “You can try to calm, and reason with, the snake — but the snake is going to bite when it can. It’s absurd for us to consider that the Iranians are going to be anything other than what they are.”
The 59-year-old former Baptist minister has not formally declared his candidacy for 2016, but has made broad hints at another run. According to several polls, he stands a good chance of getting the Republican nomination.
Speaking to Israeli reporters in the capital’s Inbal Hotel, Huckabee said he has met with Netanyahu whenever he comes to Israel — he frequently leads groups of Christian tourists — but admitted he has not met with the Palestinian leadership “in the past several trips that I’ve been here.
“My position is a bit outspoken and I’m not sure that they would be delighted to have me. But if they issued an invitation, then I would be happy to consider it,” he said. “My story would not change from what I’m telling you. It would be the same.”