At Christian pro-Israel summit, GOP presidential candidates unite in denouncing deal with Tehran, disagree on Palestinian statehood
Republican presidential candidates revealed key differences while talking up their pro-Israel credentials at the annual summit of Christians United for Israel in Washington on Monday, where hopefuls such as former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee and former senator Rick Santorum denounced a two-state solution, and former Florida governor Jeb Bush offered guarded support for such an outcome.
With dire warnings about the results of nuclear talks with Iran and condemnation of the Obama administration’s stance toward Israel, the GOP politicos used the forum to court some 1.6 million CUFI members, who tend to lean conservative.
Both Huckabee and Santorum disavowed longstanding US policy of supporting a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, ruling out the establishment of a Palestinian state alongside Israel.
“I am not for a two-state solution,” Santorum told attendees at the annual conference. “I don’t think it’s the role of the United States of America to be dictating solutions any more than if there is an internal territorial dispute in the United States.”
But fundraising powerhouse Bush, seen as one of the more centrist contenders in the crowded GOP field, took a more cautious approach.
In a pre-recorded interview, Bush affirmed that it was “in the interest of the United States for a Palestinian state to come into existence,” but conditioned his agreement with the comment that “it has to be under the right conditions.”
Bush did say that Israel should be allowed to continue to build in the West Bank, “in areas that are developed,” but questioned construction in “green field” areas — a possible reference to a policy that would differentiate between existing settlement blocs and construction of new neighborhoods or towns.
In contrast, former New York governor George Pataki said that he would “work with the Israeli government toward an intelligent approach toward Judea and Samaria.”
“I’m not going to demonize them when they believe it is in the national strategic interest to establish a community somewhere,” Pataki added. He said that the US couldn’t “expect the Israelis to sit down with [Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud] Abbas and the PLO government when their strategic partner has been Hamas.”
Senator Ted Cruz of Texas did not specify whether or not he supports a two-state solution, instead telling moderator Bret Stephens that he doesn’t “think it is the role of the US or any other nation to try to impose a specific solution on the dispute between Israel and the Palestinians.”
“Israel is a sovereign nation,” Cruz added. “Whatever the ultimate solution that is arrived upon by those two parties — whether it is a two-state solution or a one-state solution is a decision for Israel to make.”
Cruz did, however, take the opportunity to turn his answer into a critique of the current administration — one of many aired during the 90-minute forum.
Asserting that “Israel is not the obstacle,” to peace, Cruz added that “sadly, President Obama, and Hillary Clinton and John Kerry have trouble understanding the idea that the impediment to peace is not Israel, but the Palestinians who refuse to lay down their arms.”
The candidates did largely agree in their critical approach toward almost every aspect of the Obama administration’s foreign policy – particularly in the Middle East. Huckabee garnered applause when he said that that Kerry should “get off his crutches” and leave the Iran talks, “go to Jerusalem,” and “hug Bibi.”
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SOURCE: The Times of Israel – Rebecca Shimoni Stoil