Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee planted an olive tree overlooking the Judean Desert on the southeastern edge of the Ma’aleh Adumim Tuesday, saying the tree would come to provide shade for a park in a planned neighborhood that Ma’aleh Adumim Mayor Benny Kashriel said would contain about 1,000 housing units. On a tour organized by the Judea, Samaria and Gaza Council, Huckabee also slammed last month’s UN Security Resolution condemning Israeli communities as “embarrassing, and added hopes that incoming US President Donald J. Trump moves the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.
Backed by a red banner reading ‘Build Israel Great Again’ just one day after the Jewish Home Knesset faction held its weekly meeting here in order to launch a campaign to annex the city, Huckabee took a selfie with Kashriel to show that Israeli “settlements” are not a group of tents on isolated hilltops, but rather established cities. He also said that visions of a Palestinian state – traditionally a cornerstone of US policy in the Middle East – had to change.
“The idea that you are going to put two parties on the same piece of real estate when one of the parties doesn’t even believe that the other should even exist -that’s not a policy. That’s a fantasy,” Huckabee said.
Although Huckabee does not have an official role in the Trump transition team – he turned down a position in the new administration – the former governor’s visit to Israel just two weeks before inauguration day is seen as a sign of both the incoming administration’s support for expanding Israeli control in Judea and Samaria and as a statement of intention that the new president seeks to forge a new relationship after eight rocky years between Prime Minister Netanyahu and outgoing President Barack Obama.
“I don’t speak for the incoming administration, but I pray that his policies will be radically different than those of President Obama, which have been – to put it mildly – anti-Israel,” Huckabee said. Asked whether Trump will support building in Judea and Samaria, Huckabee said “There’s no reason he wouldn’t. This is Israel, Israel has a right to build communities, homes, bedrooms, for their own people. I believe he believes that and will understand that, respect that and support that. I can’t say officially -he hasn’t told me what his policy is, but everything indicates to me that he has extraordinary respect for Judea and Samaria and will have policies that reflect that.”
Asked by TPS about the timing of his visit, two weeks before inauguration day, Huckabee said his current trip was planned as early as August or September, not to coincide with the Trump transition period. But he said that in hindsight, the trip came about on the heels of John Kerry’s “absolutely irrational” speech regarding the UN resolution.
“What John Kerry said was absolute bull butter,” Kerry said to laughs. “It was insulting, to me as an American, and certainly insulting to Israelis as well. So I’m happy to be here to say that [Kerry’s speech is] not representative of how the average American feels.
“Even more, I’d say that the resolution showed that the United Nations is a farce, not a force. Last year, the United Nations passed one resolution about Syria and its genocide, one about North Korea where they are eating grass because they don’t have any food, one resolution about Russia, a country that has decided it’s okay to move into Crimea and Ukraine, and one about Iran that oppresses it’s people, tramples their human rights and is probably developing a nuclear bomb. But there were 20 resolution condemning Israel! How could Israel, a tiny dot on the overall map of the Middle East, be that consequential to the United Nations while the other countries get scant attention? It all makes the United Nations a bigger joke than the last episode of Seinfeld,” Huckabee said.