Potential Republican candidate for the 2016 US Presidential elections Ben Carson visited Israel this week, pledging his support for the Middle Eastern ally and praising its leader, Prime MInister Benjamin Netanyahu. He criticized current President Barack Obama for his lacklustre efforts on behalf of Israel.
Carson spoke to the Associated Press during his visit to Israel. “I do not believe that Obama has been one to cultivate the relationship” between Israel and the US, he said. “I would make it very clear that Israel and the United States have a long, cordial relationship, and I don’t think we should ever leave the Israelis in a position of wondering whether we support them, and that certainly is a question now.”
Ben Carson is a retired neurosurgeon, best known for his work in separating conjoined twins. Although not a household name among Americans, he is a favorite of some conservatives for the Republican candidacy. He is an outspoken opponent of Obama’s healthcare reforms. He has not officially announced his candidacy for the leadership race, but has said he is “strongly considering” running.
Like other Republican hopefuls with little international experience, Carson is looking to broaden his horizons – and thus his appeal – by travelling to Israel. He was a guest of “The Face of Israel”, a group which brings influential figures from around the world to see the small but thriving country firsthand.
Carson’s expressed views on Israel mirror those of the Israeli right. He is sympathetic towards Israeli cities in Judea and Samaria and questions the sincerity of Palestinian peace efforts. Instead of Israel relinquishing land for a future Palestinian state, he suggested, “one possibility” is for surrounding states, such as Egypt, to give them land.
Carson praised Netanyahu’s leadership under pressure. “I think he’s a great leader in a difficult time.”
Carson said he was impressed by the resilience of the beleaguered residents of Israel, living under near-constant threat from hostile neighbors. He promised a different approach to Israel-US relations than the current administration, should he win in 2016.
“I would make sure that Israel knew that we had their back,” he said. “Because if their neighbors know that we’re backing them up, they’re not going to be anywhere near as aggressive.”
Carson will make a decision whether to run for the Republican leadership by May.