On the heels of Bush’s visit to the Middle East and the recent violence in Gaza, it is worth exploring the presidential candidates’ positions on the US relationship to Israel and Palestine. Since the mid-1970s, there has been a bipartisan support for the Israeli occupation of Palestine, the expansion of settlements, and Israel being the number one recipient of US Foreign Aid.
Democracy Now! interviewed Ali Abunimah, founder of Electronic Intifada today and asked him his take on the presidential candidates in regards to Israel/Palestine. Abunimah said that when Barack Obama was a state senator for Illinois he was fairly supportive of Palestinian rights. Since his election to the Senate, his perspective has changed. “Just yesterday, he apparently sent a letter to Zalmay Khalilzad, the US ambassador at the UN, to urge the US not to allow any resolution to pass criticizing Israel and saying how Israel was forced to impose this barbaric medieval siege on Israel.”
Abunimah says that a similar shift has taken place with Hillary Clinton, who in the early 1990s advocated for a Palestinian state, but:
“…since then she has become one of the most anti-Palestinian hawks. For example, a couple of years ago, she went and staged a photo opportunity in an Israeli settlement by the apartheid wall and talked about how the wall was necessary. This wall, of course, which has been condemned as illegal by the International Court of Justice, which has ordered Israel to tear it down, Hillary Clinton went and stood in front of it and endorsed it.”
The founder of Electronic Intifada says that Romney believes “Islamic militancy is the greatest threat to the US” and that he claims Palestinians are part of that camp. Abunimah also states:
“None of the other candidates in the mainstream have spoken out for Palestinian rights. The only ones who have taken forceful positions opposing the current US strategy are Dennis Kucinich on the Democratic side and Ron Paul on the Republican side. The mainstream are all perfectly comfortable with the war crimes that Israel is committing, no matter how much they talk about human rights elsewhere.”
Other writers have looked at this issue. At Foreign Policy in Focus, Stephen Zunes says Obama has insisted, “we should never seek to dictate what is best for the Israelis and their security interests and that no Israeli prime minister should ever feel dragged to the negotiating table.” According to Zunes, Obama “has called for fully funding military assistance” to Israel, with no conditions on human rights performance.
In October of 2006, Senator Clinton said to an audience at a Council on Foreign Relations meeting, “In the aftermath of the Palestinian elections that gave rise to Hamas, we need to continue to insist that any Palestinian government recognize Israel’s right to exist and cease terrorism.” On the GOP side, Mike Huckabee has a 3-point position on supporting Israel. He says:
“I am a steadfast supporter of Israel, our staunch ally in the War on Terror, the only fully-functioning democracy in the Middle East, and our greatest friend in that region. The United States must remain true to its long-standing commitment to the Israeli people. As President, I will always ensure that Israel has access to the state-of-the-art weapons and technology she needs to defend herself from those who seek her annihilation.”
Ron Paul takes a position that is quite opposite when he says:
“I do believe that our current policies toward Israel are doing more harm than good to those we profess to support. Our foreign military aid to Israel is actually more like corporate welfare to the U.S. military industrial complex, as Israel is forced to purchase only U.S. products with the assistance.”