"I keep coming back to this simple truth: Israel deserves a safe homeland," said former – and possibly future – U.S. presidential candidate Mike Huckabee on Wednesday during a visit to the Gush Katif Museum in Jerusalem.
Huckabee is on his third and last day of his 12th trip to Israel, during which he has visited Jewish sites in eastern Jerusalem, Maaleh Adumim, Beit El, the Shomron (Samaria) and elsewhere. He repeatedly expressed the right of Israelis to live wherever they desire without fear of foreign intervention, and said he sees no need for a new Arab state to arise in the Biblical areas of Judea and Samaria.
Huckabee finished second in the race to become the Republican party's candidate for president last year, and though he has not yet announced whether he will run again in 2012, he is considered the early front-runner. He implied that he would have something to say on the topic in his Fox News TV program at the end of this week.
Huckabee's hosts brought him on Wednesday to the Gush Katif Museum in Jerusalem, which memorializes the dynamic community life in Gush Katif and its abrupt end during the Disengagement/expulsion in 2005. He was accompanied by MK Ayoub Kara of the Likud and Chabad Rabbi Shalom Dov Wolpe. The mini-dais set up in the museum for the occasion thus comprised a Zionist Druze, a former Christian pastor and a Jewish rabbi.
Emphasizing that his positions are not anti-U.S., Huckabee emphasized the "organic" relationship he perceives between Israel and the U.S. "Both countries were established under similar circumstances," he said, "when people manifested tremendous self-sacrifice to create a society of liberty and freedoms." Asked when did he become a Zionist, he said, "I'm not a Zionist, I'm just a realist, and a lover of liberty – a value that is celebrated and common in both of our countries."
Asked by Israel National News whether he is confident that pro-American, pro-Israeli, and anti-Palestinian-state views such as his would garner strong support in a future national election, given the increasing Muslim influence in the West, Huckabee joked, "I'm not 100 percent sure. Otherwise I would have been in a very different position right now [President of the United States]. But I do feel that Americans are in favor of liberty."
Rabbi Wolpe told Huckabee that "unfortunately, President Obama has declared war on G-d, in that this land was given by Him to the Jewish People. When you visit this museum and see the expulsion of Jews from their land in Gaza, know that our goal today is to make sure that the same thing doesn't happen again to tens of thousands of Jews in Judea and Samaria."
Huckabee spent several minutes in the museum's 'black room," in which disturbing video scenes of the actual expulsion from a synagogue in Gush Katif are repeatedly screened. He asked many questions, particularly when he saw soldiers focibly removing struggling youngsters, followed by scenes of soldiers and residents embracing, a crying policeman holding a Torah scroll, and other similar paradoxes.