Israel’s Ambassador to the US Ron Dermer on Tuesday described as “inappropriate” a comment by US presidential candidate Mike Huckabee in which he accused US President Barack Obama of “marching the Israelis to the doors of the oven” with this month’s nuclear deal with Iran.
Israel’s Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz also rejected Huckabee’s comment, saying it was an “unnecessary mistake.”
In an interview with USA Today, Dermer distanced himself from Huckabee’s Holocaust reference. “These are not words that I would use or that I think are appropriate,” Dermer said.
“We don’t in any way impugn the motives of the people who are doing this deal,” the ambassador continued. “I think it’s important to conduct this debate in a way that’s befitting of the alliance between our two countries.”
Dermer noted that although he believes the Iran deal is a danger to Israel and the region, he doesn’t dispute the Obama administration’s good intentions in backing it.
“Look, we have a very serious disagreement with the administration on a very serious issue,” he said. “But what I don’t doubt is the sincerity of the president or his team when they say they believe this deal not only makes America safe but makes Israel safe. Where we disagree is the judgment of actually what this deal is going to do.”
Dermer said he believes a majority of congressmen are against the deal, but acknowledged that there may not be enough votes to override a presidential veto.
“They want to work with us to discuss what happens the day after,” Dermer said. “We’re not in that conversation at this point because we want to focus on preventing what we think is a very bad deal for Israel, for the region and for the world.”
Meanwhile, Huckabee asserted Tuesday morning that the Jewish community is supportive of his linkage between the Holocaust and the Iran nuclear deal.
“The response from Jewish people has been overwhelmingly positive,” Huckabee said on the Today show. “The response from Holocaust survivors, from the children of Holocaust supporters. Last night I was in an event, I was probably one of four gentiles in the entire event, this was a Jewish event, people were overwhelmingly supportive.”
In a message posted to his Facebook page, meanwhile, Katz praised the Republican presidential candidate’s concern for Israel, but opposed his choice of expression.
“Dear Mr Huckabee: No one marches the Jews to the ovens anymore,” Katz wrote. In order to prevent that, he noted, “we established Israel and the IDF, and if necessary we will know how to defend ourselves on our own.”
“Your concerns for Israel are genuine, and it is important to do everything to bring the leading world power and our great friend, the USA, to oppose the deal that will bring the Iranian terror regime to be a nuclear threshold power, but using expressions of that kind is an unnecessary mistake.”
Huckabee, a former Arkansas governor, made his original “door of the oven” comment during a radio interview Saturday, denouncing Obama for his role in the agreement reached July 14 by the United States and five other world powers with Tehran.
He tweeted out the comment again Sunday.
The accusation drew wide criticism from other politicians and groups, including the Anti-Defamation League, that also denounced Huckabee’s comments.
However, the Zionist Organization of America backed the presidential hopeful, saying in a statement “that this Iran deal could lead to a Holocaust-like massacre of the Jews.”
“In such circumstances, when the Jewish state is threatened with nuclear annihilation, a Holocaust analogy such as Governor Huckabee used is acceptable and not out of place,” the statement said.
On Monday, Huckabee attacked Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton in the context of the Iran deal, declaring that a mushroom cloud over Israel is unacceptable.
Associate Press and JTA contributed to this report.