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Giuliani and Clinton: The Best Candidates for Israel

By Oren Lee-Parritz

The United States presidency is a crucial concern to anyone who cares about the State of Israel.  Responsible voters are charged with the difficult task of separating rhetoric from true intent. However, a careful analysis reveals that Rudolph Giuliani and Hilary Clinton are the two candidates that are best trusted with Israel’s well-being.

Rudolph Giuliani, former mayor of New York City Hillary Clinton, (D-NY) Barack Obama (D-IL)

Democrats

Hilary Clinton’s words and actions have set her above her competitors from the Democratic Party. Hilary Clinton has addressed AIPAC, and has repeatedly expressed solidarity with Israel on numerous occasions and in front of diverse audiences. While other candidates can boast a similar resume, Senator Clinton also has a record to back her up. Senator Clinton supported Israel’s right to defend herself throughout the Lebanon war, and has openly defended Israel’s right to enforce their security barrier for protection against terrorists. The Senator has also advocated for moving the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem (a symbolic gesture as many countries refuse to acknowledge Jerusalem as the capital of the Jewish state). While supporting Israel, Senator Clinton still believes in a two state solution and is committed to the peace process. In addition, the Senator has taken a strong stance against Iran and their nuclear ambitions and did not mince words concerning her beliefs about Syria’s true intentions.

During her speeches, Hillary Clinton has canvassed a broad spectrum of the issues present in the middle-east theatre, spanning from the hateful textbooks of Palestinian schools to the exclusion of the Magen David Adom from the ICRC. A more extensive understanding inspires more belief in the diplomatic prowess that will be necessary in the years to come and perhaps greater commitment. According to Professor Gadi Wolfsfeld of the Hebrew University “I don’t think you can know how active the President's will be on the Middle East, but we can assume that Hillary will continue the activist approach of her husband.  I don’t think the other candidates know themselves what they will do.”

In 1999, she was criticized for kissing Suha Arafat (the wife of Yassir Arafat) after she (Suha) had made some incendiary comments about Israel. While some consider it hypocritical, it is also a reasonable to dismiss as a mistake given her relatively consistent record.

Barack Obama’s political views towards Israel have taken a generally moderate tone. While, like most candidates he stresses participation in the peace process, he has not in any way shirked emphasis on Israel’s need for security or America’s obligation to help them. Senator Obama has addressed also AIPAC and has pledged America’s commitment in front of them.  Mr. Obama advocates a tough stance on Israel’s enemies, especially Hamas, preferring to strengthen those among the Palestinian moderates, and pushing for those who continue to work with Israel’s enemies (namely Egypt) to discontinue these practices. Senator Obama has criticized the Palestinians for not living up to their end of the bargain in the peace process.

Many have criticized Sentaor Obama for inconsistency in regards to his speech to AIPAC with his statement made in Iowa: “Nobody's suffering more than the Palestinian people from this whole process. And I would like to see — if we could get some movement from Palestinian leadership — what I'd like to see is a loosening up of some of the restrictions on providing aid directly to the Palestinian people.”  Whether this was a verbal attack on Israeli policy or an expression of sympathy towards Palestinians civilians caught in the crossfire is unclear.

According to Ed Lasky from the American Thinker, Mr. Obama has been keeping company with many anti-Israel figures such as Edward Said or Neil Abercrombie. Mr. Lasky also points out that the pastor of his former church adheres to a “liberation theology” that is often anti-Israel and has been close to Louis Farrakhan and the dictator of Libya. However, Mr. Obama has since distanced himself from this pastor.

Senator Edwards is another candidate for this year’s presidency. While his rhetoric seems to be in line with that of the other two, it seems as if he shares the same fault as Barack: a lack of substantive record. Senator Edwards has appeared in front of AIPAC (in 2006) and recently spoke in Herziliya. During his speeches he frequently stands by Israel’s right to defend herself, a focus on the peace process, and strong rebukes against a nuclear Iran and Syria’s extra-curricular activities. The words are there but voters are unfortunately still left without anything of substance to base their opinions on. This is Edwards’ greatest weakness in the Israel category. According to Professor Gil Troy of McGill University, “he has been a presidential candidate twice, so he would mouth the right words when schmoozing AIPAC, but it’s not central to his identity – and as someone who dismisses the ‘war on terror’ as an empty slogan, he does not seem to grasp the dangers of Islamofascism”.

Republicans

As far as the Republican Party is concerned, Rudy Giuliani has had the best record in advocacy for Israel. Rudy Giuliani’s public statements show clear support, not just by their content but by their boldness. At the presidential debate, Giuliani openly stated that the Palestinians have not lived up to their end of the bargain in the peace process. Rudy Giuliani does seem to support the peace process but wants tangible results and calls for the removal of corrupt leaders at the helm of the Palestinians. Aside from statements such as these, Giuliani has a solid record of supporting Israel. To be sure, some of his more right wing views may not sit well with some (he believes that Oslo was a mistake).

Rudy Giuliani tried to close the PLO offices in New York citing that they were terrorists with an office operating on American soil. On one occasion, Rudy Giuliani returned a $10 Million donation to a Saudi prince after he had made certain comments about Israel. Rudy Giuliani also threw Yasser Arafat out of a concert at the Lincoln center due to his anger at Palestinian terrorists’ murder of 69 year-old Leon Klinghoffer.

Mr. Giuliani has also repudiated European governments for their demonizing of Israel and for not taking a strong enough stance on terrorism. Mr. Giuliani also does not take a passive view on dealings with Iran.

According to “Haaretz”, Rudy Giuliani is the best presidential candidate for Israel in 2008.

Mitt Romney also has exhibited a generally strong pro-Israel stance. Mostly, his record consists of strongly rebuking Israel’s enemies such as Iran, which has been expressed through many of his speeches. Mitt Romney has also initiated an extensive campaign to have the government and private sector divest from Iran. In Massachusetts, he arranged a meeting between Benjamin Netnayahu and the state treasurer to discuss divestment of the state’s pension fund. Mitt Romney has also defended Israel’s use of the security wall after having visited it during a trip to Israel and discussing it with Israeli generals.

However, Mitt Romney has drawn criticism for kicking off his presidential campaign at the site of the Henry Ford museum, seen by many as a symbol of Henry Ford’s and vicious anti-Semitism. The Romney campaign has decided to move forward citing having chosen the site as a commemoration of America’s entrepreneurial spirit.

Most of Mitt Romney’s rhetoric has focused on Iran and most of his direct statements about Israel have been supportive but have remained statements, though he did travel to Herziliyah and spoke at YU.

John McCain has also spoken at Yeshiva University in support of Israel. John McCain also has a decent record showing support for Israel. During the Lebanon War, Mr. McCain stood by Israel’s right to defend herself, when many other countries and politicians would not and has also made comments defending Israel’s use of the security wall. In regards to the Israeli peace process, Mr. McCain has stated that he does support peace talks but does not support talks with Hamas or terrorist groups that advocate for Israel’s destruction. John McCain addressed AIPAC in 2002. In May of 2006 he stated: “There can be no comprehensive peace accord between Israel and the Palestinians until the Palestinians recognize Israel, forswear forever the use of violence, recognize their previous agreements, and reform their internal institutions." (Courtesy of Haaretz).

Mike Huckabee is also a staunch supporter of Israel, albeit in a different way. Mr. Huckabee has purportedly visited the Holy Land nine times, and has repeatedly voiced his support for Israel and the need for America to help her. However, it is Mike Huckabee’s far right wing stance towards the region that set him apart from the other candidates. Mr. Huckabee does not believe in a two state solution within Israel’s border but instead one that would put the Palestinians on another strip of land. Such views deviate from what is generally accepted as a solution to the decades-long standing conflict.

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