Huntsman to Haaretz: If Elected, I'll Protect and Promote Israel

Republican presidential hopeful calls Iran's nuclear 'most challenging transcendent threat of this decade', says all options on the table.

DURHAM, New Hampshire - Republican presidential candidate Jon Huntsman said yesterday that he would "fully promote and protect" the U.S.-Israel alliance should he be elected president.

Speaking to Haaretz, Huntsman explained that his Israel policy would be based on a "deep, enduring friendship", and emphasized that the alliance between the two would be based on "security, economics, and values."

Huntsman, a former governor of Utah, also called Iran's nuclear program the "most challenging transcendent threat of this decade," and stated that he would consult very closely with Israel if provided with clear evidence of an Iranian nuclear weapon. He added that all options, including a military one, were on the table in order to deal with a nuclear Iran.

"I will be the president who will not be willing to accept a nuclear Iran," he said. "I think it's too dangerous for the region, I think it's too dangerous given what they've said about Israel, and I would do whatever I needed to do as president to ensure they won't become a nuclear power."

Huntsman skipped the Iowa caucuses to concentrate in New Hampshire, which will hold its primary next week. He started his week in Hampton, in the state's south, and from there moved north to Durham, where he toured the Goss International printer press production plant and took questions on topics ranging from energy independence to Afghanistan.

"Its' time for our troops to come home," he said. "It's a counter-terror mission, not a nation-building exercise. ... The world is better off when America is strong, and we are weak today. Afghanistan, Iraq, is not our nation's future."

On illegal immigration, Huntsman said with the American economy tanking, people were no longer clamoring to get in from Mexico. "Nobody is going to cross the border anymore. We screwed our economy, we don't have jobs anymore," he said. "There is a lot in this country that needs to be done. You walk the streets of Shanghai and there is energy, they feel their time has arrived. We are in the hole. But we've got plan. And it all starts next Tuesday. I need your help, ladies and gentlemen."

Huntsman, who is considered a dark-horse candidate, promised not to "pander to interest groups" and to not "sign on silly pledges like all the other candidates did."

"I shamelessly ask for your votes," he said.