Former Arkansas governor and Republican presidential primary candidate Mike Huckabee arrived in Israel on Sunday. On Monday, Huckabee, who is also a television host, spoke at the Knesset.
Huckabee's appearance at the Knesset comes in the framework of The International Committee For The Land of Israel, a Zionist American Jewish organization.
The former presidential candidate remarked that he has been coming to Israel for 41 years since the summer of 1973, and "seen nothing less than the miraculous transformation of this land."
There are "long lines to condemn, criticize and even destroy Israel," said Huckabee, but the line of those aware that the "only explanation for Israel's existence is G-d's providence is a very short one, and since I always like to get in very short lines, I don't mind being in the very front of that line."
"There are those who wish harm on Israel, that's undeniable. ...Some of the most vicious, some of the most violent acts in human history have been targeted towards Israel as a nation and the Jewish people as a whole. Some of the acts are irrational. How else can one describe the BDS movement other than an irrational punishment of Israel for giving equality" by companies like Sodastream, remarked Huckabee, noting the company whose headquarters outside Ma'ale Adumim in Judea has put it in the target of BDS.
Speaking of Sodastream's representative actress Scarlett Johansson, who refused to submit to pressure by the BDS movement to remove her support, Huckabee praised her for showing "more courage than all the State Department."
"If I ever become president, maybe you'll see Secretary of State Scarlett Johansson, I'm pretty sure she'll be more attractive than the two we just had," remarked Huckabee tongue-in-cheek.
"Truth is the best friend Israel has. Unfortunately it doesn't have many friends telling the truth," commented Huckabee. He noted the historical, Biblical, theological and logical definitions supporting Israel's right to exist, adding that it fits the United Nations description of an indigenous nation.
"The nonsense of two people sharing the same land is irrational enough to begin with, but if one of them thinks the other doesn't have the right to exist, the continuation of the nonsense of the two state solution is no solution," charged the former presidential candidate.
"Can anybody celebrate the kidnapping?"
Huckabee defended Israel's right to demand that its "children live in a place that is safe and secure and is not threatened by mere single digit miles from those that wish to destroy them." He noted that directly after landing on Sunday he visited the home of Naftali Frenkel, one of the kidnapped teens who happens to be an American citizen.
The former presidential candidate says he spoke to Frenkel's mother, saying "I'm not talking to you as an American to an Israeli, I'm not talking to you as simply someone who comes with a diplomatic mission. I'm looking into the eyes of a mother whose son was just coming home from school, and someone took him from here."
"Will anybody on earth justify what happened to those three boys. Can anybody celebrate that? If they can, they are very sick indeed. And if there are those who think you can defend and justify such a horrid action...then those are people made of a very different cloth than me, and it is very important that there is across the world unified condemnation," stated Huckabee.
Indeed, Palestinian Authority (PA) Chairman Mahmoud Abbas's PA and Fatah faction have celebrated the kidnapping, and a senior Fatah official last Thursday justified kidnappings as the "only language that Israel understands." Arab MK Hanin Zoabi (Balad) likewise justified the abduction.
Huckabee warned that if the three abducted teens don't come home safely, then "whoever did this will have hell to pay for having taken on those boys and their mothers."
The former governor added that the international delegitimization of Israel is "rabid irrational anti-Semitic hatred, and we cannot allow the world to pretend that this is simply a political viewpoint that sponsors movements like BDS. It is anti-Semitic hatred and bigotry."
"The greatest friend we have in America today"
MK Nissim Ze'ev (Shas) chaired the meeting, and began by praising Huckabee as "the man who fought all year against the delegitimization (of Israel) by the United States and the international sphere."
Ze'ev also praised Huckabee's determination to raise awareness about the kidnapping of three yeshiva students in the US. While the Secretary of State's office and individual politicians have condemned the abduction, US President Barack Obama remains silent - some 11 days later.
"The world is indifferent. ...but, our friend Mike Huckabee, went directly from the airport to the Frenkel family to support them, and tell them we're here together," Ze'ev said. "The United States and Israel are united on this issue (of the kidnapping)."
Dr. Joe Frager, Chairman of The International Committee For The Land Of Israel, then opened the address, calling Huckabee "the greatest friend we have in America today."
Frager warned that action would need to be taken on Iran's nuclear program, likely this summer, but that it looks like Israel would need to act alone without waiting for US President Barack Obama to help. He closed by reciting Psalm 121 for the return of the captive teens.
Construction and Housing Minister Uri Ariel (Jewish Home) spoke in the meeting as well, saying Israel must act against the kidnappers of the three teens with a strong hand, doing "much more than the government is doing now" to bring the three home.
"Rescue the teens, Ramadan or not"
Also present at the meeting was Deputy Defense Minister Danny Danon (Likud).
"You today visit Israel as a television host who supports Israel. I hope you will visit Israel soon as an American president who supports Israel," said Danon.
Regarding the concern that the IDF operation to rescue the teens will run into increase opposition during the Muslim month of Ramadan, which starts this weekend, Danon said "I'm all for their having rights, but I demand rights to Jews, the rights of the families Sha'ar, Frenkel and Yifrah to see their kids at home. And therefore I call not to stop the IDF actions, even if it's during Ramadan."
Danon argued that the Jewish people's rights to Israel are based on Biblical rights, historical rights, as well as rights under international law, for security reasons, and "common sense."
"We won in war, we don't give a prize to those who lost in war...no prize to attackers," said Danon.
Danon closed by noting a law signed in by US President Barack Obama stating that no "Palestinian unity government" including Hamas would be funded, and asked Huckabee to help stop the transfer of funds "which go for incitement."
"We're our worst enemy"
MK Moshe Feiglin (Likud) then spoke, commenting to Danon "Israel continues to transfer funds to the Palestinians, what do you want from America?"
Speaking in English to address Huckabee, Feiglin said "our problem is not America, our problem is ourselves."
"We have something in common, you and I. I listen to your speeches, and every time I hear you saying something that I hear myself saying all the time. You say, 'I believe in G-d," and without that the delegitimization will continue," said Feiglin, arguing that the belief in G-d who gave Israel to the Jewish people is the truth legitimization of Israel.
"If we run away from our identity, this is the open gate to delegitimization. What do you want from the Arabs and the Americans? If we ourselves came and said in the Oslo agreement that the heart of the land belongs to a different group, and they're not even a nation...once we did that we lost the strongest weapon - justice," stated Feiglin.
Feiglin added "Israel doesn't need the financial and military support (of the US), Israel needs America and America needs iIsrael to spread around the message of freedom, because we share the same values."
Following Feiglin was Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein (Likud), who remarked he had received a letter Sunday from the International Parliamentarian Union (IPU) secretary general, saying jokingly that he felt there must have been a first letter that got lost in the mail.
The letter opened with "deep concern" over a "Palestinian parliament member" being arrested in the IDF operation to crackdown on Hamas and rescue the abducted teens. Edelstein remarked that he looked for the absent first line of the letter saying "I condemn the kidnapping."
However, looking for such a condemnation Edelstein reports he found "nada, nothing."
'Double Standards are Anti-Semitism'
Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz spoke as well, calling Huckabee "one of Israel's best friends" and adding that he "agreed with everything."
“We might have many more enemies, but we have very strong friends with you," he said. “You need some courage and integrity to support Israel against animosity, and anti-Semitism. [. . .] this is extremely encouraging.”
Steinitz first made a few comments regarding the abduction of three yeshiva students, reiterating that Hamas is indeed responsible for the kidnapping.
“Those who are responsible directly for these terrible terrorist attacks are the Hamas people and the Hamas movement, this we know with confidence; I can say this as Intelligence Minister with confidence," he affirmed.
Steinitz maintained that responsibility also falls on the Palestinian Authority, however.
"[But] we cannot exonerate the PA altogether [for the kidnapping], including [PA Chairman Mahmoud] Abbas," he added. "They are in charge of preventing such attacks, and they failed."
The minister named three reasons Abbas should be held responsible: that the terrorists "came from Area A, which is under the secure responsibility of the PA," and that "if they failed now, there is a question they can be trusted in the future"; because the PA "sent up a joint government with a terror organization, Hamas"; and the major question of Palestinian incitement.
"Although it was done by Hamas, the anti-Israeli and anti-Jewish incitement in the PA education system, government media, government television, is ongoing on a daily basis," he stressed, "including some encouragement for kidnapping Israelis that was broadcasted on Abbas's government station."
"Abbas has condemned [the kidnapping] a little, denounced [it] a little [. . .] [but] we shouldn’t him exonerate until they crack down on terrorists, until they terminate this partnership with Hamas, and more important until they put a complete end to this horrific anti-Israeli and anti-Jewish incitement," he added.
Steinitz then shifted his attention to BDS, as a "weapon of anti-Semitism" to "isolate Israel."
"If Israel’s enemies use double standards, this is anti-Semitism," he noted. "We have experienced a lot of anti-Semitism against the Jewish people over 2,000 years."
"Modern anti-Semites are not anti-Semites; they are only against the Jewish state, not the Jewish people," he said. "It’s forbidden to be against the Jewish people now after so long but to make it against the Jewish state is alright."
"We are willing to accept criticism but not incitement and hatred," he added.
Steinitz brought up the issue of Cyprus - the northern part of which has been occupied by Turkey - as a prime example of the international community's double-standards.
“There are many territorial conflicts in the world," he said. "The EU holds that northern Cyprus is occupied by Turkey."
"[Yet] no one ever wants to divest from Turkish banks in Northern Cyprus or boycott products from Northern Cyprus," he said.
"These are double-standards across the enormous Middle East, which is riddled with human rights violations, women’s rights violations - with murder, with execution orders," he continued. "But within all of this sadness, there is an infinitesimally small state, a Jewish state, a Western state par excellence, and the West finds reasons specifically to harm this tiny Democracy - this is what we called ‘disguised anti-Semitism."
Security and American values
MK Dov Lipman (Yesh Atid) also spoke, telling his story about emigrating to Israel from the US and thanking Huckabee for upholding traditional American values.
"When I looked in the room and saw the American flag in the room, you just can’t look away, something stirred inside me," Lipman said, noting an American flag hung outside his childhood home "365 days a year."
He recounted how, when he was preparing to be sworn in after the last Knesset elections in 2012, "they asked me to raise my right hand and renounce my US citizenship, and I had tears streaming down my face. It was really hard to do."
"It was hard to do so because of what America stands for and what the America I grew up in stood for," he explained. "I always saw America as a country which saw truth, saw good, and would fight against evil, fight against falsehood. Then, all of a sudden, I found out that Israel is the cause of evil in the world and felt very isolated."
Citing the recent Presbyterian Church decision to support BDS, Lipman thanked Huckabee for the "revival of core American values," reflecting that even the early Presidents stressed the importance of the Jewish people and even a Jewish homeland.
Yoni Chetboun (Jewish Home) also spoke, thanking Huckabee for his work preventing IDF soldiers from being labelled as "war criminals"; and MK Ayelet Shaked (Jewish Home) asked Huckabee to relay to the State Department that Israel is "not willing to trade our security for US technology," referring to the US framework for negotiations with the PA and the current fall in Iraq to ISIS as proof.