Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, who recent polls indicate is one of the leading potential candidates for the Republican Party’s 2016 presidential nomination, said during a visit to Israel Monday that the Obama administration’s efforts to reach an Israelis-Palestinian breakthrough agreement were bound to fail. The reason, he said, is that Palestinians don’t want peace.
“I don’t think the talks are going anywhere at all. Nothing has been asked of the Palestinians, nothing, not one thing. And until there’s an understanding of the Jewish state’s right to exist, I’m not sure there’s anything to negotiate,” Huckabee told a handful a reporters gathered at the Bible Lands Museum in Jerusalem, where he had just visited the new Book of Books exhibit, which displays fragments of Jewish and early New Testament scriptures.
“As long as textbooks of the children of Palestinians celebrate the death of Jews...you cannot negotiate, you cannot talk about peace if one of the parties has no intention of a peaceful resolution,” Huckabee said, adding that he came to this conclusion simply by being someone "with a bit of gray matter between my ears."
His comments come a day after Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said that he was not interested in flooding Israel with Palestinian refugees during a visit of 300 Israeli students at his compound in Ramallah.
A Southern Baptist, Huckabee has been coming to Israel for 41 years and leads an annual trip of Christian pilgrims. This year, there are 282 participants on the trip coming from across America - a number that would have been far larger if Huckabee’s touring crew had space for more. They were also due to visit Yad Vashem, the official Israeli memorial to the Jewish victims of the Holocaust, on Monday.
“This is the Holy Land, it is God’s land,” Huckabee said. The first thing he tells participants is "welcome home." “I tell them ‘I know you’ve never been here, but you’re going to feel like you have been here. Even though you have never physically been here, spiritually your whole life has been here.’ I never get tired of it.”
Huckabee added that as a Christian, Israel is the only place in the region he feels safe. He no longer takes pilgrims to Christian sites beyond the wall – i.e. the separation barrier - because he doesn’t feel safe taking them there. This, he acknowledged, includes Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus.
Huckabee also said that the BDS movement was full of stupidity and anti-Semitism. “How else can someone understand this?” He said. “I was so proud of Scarlett Johansson,” he added, for deciding to quit Oxfam rather then drop her agreement with SodaStream, which operates a West Bank plant. She showed that she has more sense than 99.9 percent of the people sitting in the UN today.”
A month ago, Huckabee, caused some controversy when he came out against providing birth control pills in state-supported health-care plan.
“If the Democrats want to insult the women of America by making them believe that they are helpless without Uncle Sugar coming in and providing for them a prescription each month for birth control, because they cannot control their libido or their reproductive system without the help of the government, then so be it. Let us take that discussion all across America, because women are far more than the Democrats have played them to be," Huckabee said, later saying that his statement was spun “180 degrees” from its intended meaning.
“What I said was that I think women are equal and intelligent…I can’t imagine that there are people who treat women as if they have to be somehow helped along, whether it’s by government or someone else, because they can’t fend for themselves,” Huckabee said in response to a question on the issue. “Then what I said…that Democrats in my country tend to think that women are helpless victims of their gender. He said that for the Democrats focus on that “infinitesimal” issue, as if women are only concerned about reproductive issues, is “insulting to women,” he added.
“Do we value women as equals are not? Do we think they are helpless victims of their gender or not?” he posed. “I am indeed a pro-life life person, which I am and will continue to be. It happens that young women are more pro-life than their mothers or grandmothers. For the first time since 1973, those numbers have moved,” he said, referring to the year the landmark Roe vs. Wade U.S. Supreme Court decision was reached, giving women the right to abortion.