2008 Presidential Candidates’ Views on the Middle East
For John McCain’s bio, please click HERE.
The success of Hamas and Hizbullah in the region is not only a danger for Israel, but also a threat to US national interests, US Republican presidential candidate John McCain said. (The Jerusalem Post, March 19, 2008).
“If Hamas/Hizbullah succeeds here, they are going to succeed everywhere, not only in the Middle East, but everywhere. Israel isn’t the only enemy,” Arizona Sen. McCain said. (The Jerusalem Post, March 19, 2008).
“They are dedicated to the extinction of everything that the US, Israel and the West believe and stand for. So America does have an interest in what happens here, far above and beyond our alliance with the State of Israel.”
“All of the conflicts in the Middle East are connected, they are all part of the rise of Islamic extremism,” said McCain. “If we succeed in Iraq, other countries will be more inclined to help us and this will take the pressure off Israel.” (Discussion with Jewish leaders, October 30, 2007).
“The transforming struggle of the 21st century is our struggle against radical Islamic extremism.” (Republican Jewish Coalition presidential forum, October 16, 2007 reported by JTA)
“I think we have a lot of options to explore before we seriously explore the military option, and I don’t think we have exercised those enough,” he said. Asked about Israel feeling the need to attack Iran, McCain replied, “I would hope that would never happen. I would hope that Israel would not feel that threatened.” He said the US and Europe could impose “significant, very painful sanctions on Iran, which I think could modify their behavior.” Then he added: “But I have to look you in the eye and tell you that the United States of America can never allow a second Holocaust.” (The Jerusalem Post, July 21, 2008)
“Because of the rise of Islamic extremism, because of the failure of human rights and democracy in the Middle East, or whether there are a myriad of challenges we face in the Middle East, all of them severe, all of them pose a threat to the existence to the state of Israel, including and especially the Iranians, who have as a national policy the destruction of the state of Israel, something they've been dedicated to since before President Bush came to office.” (Interview with Jeffrey Goldberg from the Atlantic Magazine, May 30, 2008)
When asked what he thinks motivates Iran, McCain said: “Hatred. I don't try to divine people's motives. I look at their actions and what they say. I don't pretend to be an expert on the state of their emotions. I do know what their nation's stated purpose is, I do know they continue in the development of nuclear weapons, and I know that they continue to support terrorists who are bent on the destruction of the state of Israel. You'll have to ask someone who engages in this psycho stuff to talk about their emotions.” (Interview with Jeffrey Goldberg from the Atlantic Magazine, May 30, 2008)
“I'm amused by Senator Obama's dramatic change since he's gone from a candidate in the primary to a candidate in the general election. I've seen him do that on a number of issues that show his naivete and inexperience on national security issues. I believe that the history of the successful conduct of national security policy is that, one, you don't sit down face-to-face with people who are behave the way they do, who are state sponsors of terrorism. Senator Obama likes to refer to President Kennedy going to Vienna. Most historians see that as a serious mistake, which encouraged Khrushchev to build the Berlin Wall and to send missiles to Cuba. Another example is Richard Nixon going to China. I've forgotten how many visits Henry Kissinger made to China, and how every single word was dictated beforehand. More importantly, he went to China because China was then a counterweight to a greater threat, the Soviet Union. What is a greater threat in the Middle East than Iran today? Senator Obama is totally lacking in experience, so therefore he makes judgments such as saying he would sit down with someone like Ahmadinejad without comprehending the impact of such a meeting. I know that his naivete and lack of experience is on display when he talks about sitting down opposite Hugo Chavez or Raul Castro or Ahmadinejad.” (Interview with Jeffrey Goldberg from the Atlantic Magazine, May 30, 2008)
“I could see a situation hopefully in the future if the Iranians would change the policies that you and I have just talked about, but there would have to be negotiations and discussions and all kinds of things happening before you lend them the prestige of a face-to-face meeting with the President of the United States of America. As you know, our ambassador in Iraq, Ryan Crocker, has met with the Iranian ambassador in Baghdad on a couple of occasions. Those discussions, according to Ambassador Crocker, have been totally unproductive, because Iran is hell-bent on the destruction of Israel, they're hell-bent on driving us out of Iraq, they're hell-bent on supporting terrorist organizations, and as serious as anything to American families, they're sending explosive devices into Iraq that are killing American soldiers.” (Interview with Jeffrey Goldberg from the Atlantic Magazine, May 30, 2008)
Speaking at the University of Denver in Colorado, Arizona Senator McCain said Iran was “marching with single-minded determination” toward acquiring a nuclear weapon, and that this fact was recently “authenticated” by the International Atomic Energy Agency. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad “has threatened to wipe Israel off the face of the earth, and represents a threat to every country in the region -- one we cannot ignore or minimize,” McCain said. (Reuters, May 28, 2008)
“It’s weak judgment for Barack Obama to believe that an unconditional summit with Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad would not strengthen the worst elements in Iran, embolden the tyrant’s standing in the region and put the world’s security at risk,” McCain spokesman Tucker Bounds said in an e-mail. (The Jerusalem Post, May 25, 2008)
Asked if he thinks the Iraq War has strenghtened Iran in the region, McCain responded, “I think that our failures for nearly four years obviously did it. But I believe that that is being reversed as the surge succeeds, and I think that the Iranians are very possibly going to step up their assistance to the Jihadists, because they don’t want us to success in Iraq...Osama bin Laden has said that the central front in the battleground is Iraq, and their Palestinian brothers are next. So what are the implications to the State of Israel if they prevail on Iraq? I think they’re obvious.” (JTA, April 9, 2008)
Asked whether negotiations with Iran might help improve relations, McCain said, unequivocally, “no,” and rejected the recommendation of the Baker-Hamilton Commission. On the other hand, he did not rule out speaking with Iranians other than their president. (JTA, April 9, 2008)
“I think Iran is a threat to the region,” McCain said, adding that not only were the Iranians “obviously pursuing nuclear weapons,” they were also arming and training extremists to send into Iraq, supporting Hizbullah and influencing Syria. (The Jerusalem Post, March 19, 2008).
“At the end of the day, we can still not afford to have Iran with nuclear weapons,” he said. “We know they have ambitions that are not just aimed at the State of Israel.” These ambitions included “destabilization of the entire region upon which the United States’ national security interests rest,” he said. (The Jerusalem Post, March 19, 2008).
McCain said when it came to Iran, “the United Nations Security Council will not be effective.” He was speaking of efforts to sanction the Islamic Republic unless it met international demands to halt the enrichment of uranium. McCain proposed an intensified sanctions regime led by the U.S. and its allies. (Jerusalem Post, October 18, 2007)
“McCain also implied another sharp rebuke to Bush, saying he did not trust Russian President Vladimir Putin when it came to seeking international assistance in isolating Iran until it ends its suspected nuclear weapons program.” (Republican Jewish Coalition presidential forum, October 16, 2007 reported by JTA)
“There can be little doubt that failure in Iraq would leave Iran in a far stronger position to exert regional hegemony, pursue its nuclear weapons program and support extremist elements throughout the Middle East. The best course in Iraq is to allow the new strategy to have a chance to succeed under General Petraeus and his team. The fifth and final brigade has just arrived in Iraq. We are paying the price for many past mistakes, most notably too few troops in the past. The course ahead will be very difficult but it is strategically irresponsible to declare the “surge” a failure before it has even been fully implemented.
We should have no illusions - Iran is engaged in a proxy struggle against the United States. Iran is gravely complicating our efforts to secure Iraq by arming Sunni and Shia extremists with sophisticated weapons that are used to kill American soldiers. Iran's president has perversely doubted the Holocaust and threatened Israel's right to exist. The Iranian danger goes far beyond rhetoric. Iran is providing financial, material and political support for the most violent enemies of Israel on three fronts: Hamas in Gaza; Hezbollah in Lebanon; and Syria. In Afghanistan, Iran has sent arms to the Taliban fighting NATO forces. ran continues to harbor known al Qaeda members.
To date, Iran has not paid a price for its behavior and, unsurprisingly, continues to subvert American efforts to stabilize Iraq and support violent extremists dedicated to the destruction of Israel. The Iranian theocracy, however, has significant political and economic vulnerabilities. It seems clear that the vast majority of the Iranian people do not support the course their government has chosen of confrontation with the world. Ethnic minorities regularly demand greater autonomy. Nearly a quarter of Iran’s people are under the age of 15, and this youthful population sees economic and political power concentrated in the hands of a corrupt and out-of-touch elite.
Economically, Iran is dependent on foreign investment in its energy sector and relies on heavily subsidized refined gasoline imports to avoid social unrest. Inflation has increased the cost of basic goods such as food, housing and medical care while unemployment is in the double digits. A concerted effort to isolate the Iranian regime economically and politically will increase internal pressures and, quite possibly, lead to a change in behavior if not a change in government. If Tehran’s protectors in the United Nations Security Council continue to thwart meaningful sanctions, we should work with like-minded countries in Europe, in the Gulf and beyond to further isolate Iran.
Finally, we must make clear to the Iranian regime that continuing to train and equip forces that are attacking and killing Americans in Iraq will not be tolerated.” (The Jerusalem Post, June 21, 2007)
“The world's chief state sponsor of international terrorism, Iran defines itself by hostility to Israel and the United States. It is simply tragic that millennia of proud Persian history have culminated in a government today that cannot be counted among those of the world's civilized nations.
When the president of Iran calls for Israel to be wiped off of the map, or asks for a world without Zionism, or suggests that Israel’s Jewish population return to Europe, or calls the Holocaust a myth, it is clear that we are dealing with an evil man and a very dangerous regime.
Teheran’s continued pursuit of nuclear weapons clearly poses an unacceptable risk. Protected by a nuclear arsenal, Iran would feel unconstrained to sponsor terrorist attacks against any perceived enemy. Its flouting of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty would render that agreement obsolete, and could induce Turkey, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and others to reassess their defense posture.
Moderate Gulf states would have to accommodate the new reality, and the world would live, indefinitely, with the possibility that Teheran might pass nuclear materials or weapons to one of its allied terrorist networks. Coupled with its ballistic missile arsenal, an Iranian nuclear capability would pose an immediate and existential threat to the State of Israel.
UN Security Council action is required to impose progressively tougher political and economic sanctions.
Should the Security Council continue to drag its feet, the US must lead a group of like-minded countries in imposing multilateral sanctions outside the UN framework. The opposition of Russia and China to effective sanctions on Iran - and on issues ranging from Myanmar to Darfur to North Korea - is why I proposed the creation of a league of Democracies in which Israel would be welcomed. When democracies are united in addressing threats like Iran, we cannot afford to allow autocracies to thwart action.
There are many ways to increase pressure on Iran. Financial sanctions have had an initial effect. Iran’s need to import refined gasoline, to cite one example, suggests an important vulnerability. And countries such as China and Malaysia, which have signed deals to develop Iranian gas fields, and Russia, which provides weapons systems to Teheran, should know that Iran would be a critical element in American’s bilateral relations with each nation. In the meantime, the US should immediately investigate whether any of these deals violate the terms of last year's Iran Freedom Support Act.
The US should also privatize the sanctions effort by launching a divestment campaign. By persuading individuals, pension funds, and financial institutions to divest from companies doing business with Iran, we can isolate and delegitimize a hostile government. We will also, as we did with the South Africa divestment campaign, increase the debate inside the country about whether the present course serves the interests of the Iranian people or merely those of a misguided elite.
Americans and all proponents of freedom need to reassure the millions of Iranians who aspire to self-determination that we support their longing for freedom and democracy. There is much more we can and should do to translate such support into concrete action.
Every option must remain on the table. Military action isn’t our preference. It remains, as it always must, the last option. We have some way to go diplomatically before we need to contemplate other measures. But it is a simple observation of reality that there is only one thing worse than a military solution, and that is a nuclear-armed Iran. The regime must understand that it cannot win a showdown with the world.” (The Jerusalem Post, June 7, 2007)
“I would work to further isolate the enemies of Israel such as Syria, Hamas and Hizbullah and I would never pressure Israel to make concessions to states or movements committed to its destruction.
Finally, Teheran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons plainly poses an unacceptable risk to the international community, and Israel above all others.
Recently, it was reported that the Iranian regime has begun enriching uranium at an accelerated pace, which means we are that much closer to seeing Israel’s security being placed in grave jeopardy.
As President, I will pursue every option at my disposal to neutralize that threat. We cannot and must not allow Iran to possess nuclear weapons. I will make sure the American people understand that if we are to defeat the extremists that threaten our way of life, Israel's security cannot be compromised.” (The Jerusalem Post, May 24, 2007)
“You withdraw to the borders and watch genocide take place inside Baghdad. You watch the destabilization of Jordan. You see further jeopardy of Israel because of the threats of Hezbollah and Iranian hegemony in the region.” (June 4, 2007)
“We haven't taken the military option off the table [for Iran], but we should make it clear that is the very last option, only if we become convinced that they are about to acquire those weapons to use against Israel...I think that if they are capable with their repeatedly stated intention, that doesn’t mean I would go to war even then. That means we have to exhaust every possible option. Going to the United Nations, working with our European allies. If we were going to impose sanctions, I would wait and see whether those sanctions were effective or not. I did not mean it as a declaration of war the day they acquired weapons.” (Interview in The New Republic, October 16, 2006)
“I think the Israeli people would agree that we can't wait for rogue regimes like Iran, Iraq, and Syria to develop the weapons that would seriously challenge Israel’s defenses, and our own. I think Israelis would agree that a posture of robust deterrence against aggression is no longer enough in this age of weapons of mass destruction.” (Speech to American Jewish Committee, May 2002)
“Of course, we don’t want to see the House of Saud taken over by Islamic extremists and go the way of Iran with the fall of the Shah. But we also have to understand that, unless there is progress in Saudi Arabia, sooner or later they will fall.” (September 11, 2006)
Hamas and the situation in Gaza:
“They've responded with air strikes, and identifying Hamas leaders and, you know, quote, responding. Would they respond with massive force? I don't know. I know from my conversations with them that they are deeply concerned. They're a democracy. How would an American government, how would American public opinion respond, if there were constant shelling, and kids had fifteen seconds – fifteen seconds – to get into a bomb shelter. I don't know what the government of Israel is going to do. It somewhat depends on whether these attacks will discontinue or if other things happen. I did get the distinct impression, nothing specific, but I got the impression that the patience of the Israeli government and the people is growing short.” (Interview with Jeffrey Goldberg from the Atlantic Magazine, May 30, 2008)
On a recent trip to Israel where he visited the southern town of Sderot, a town dealing with near-daily rocket barrages launched from the Gaza Strip, McCain stated, “When I was there I stated unequivocally that every nation has the right to defend itself against attack.” (JTA, April 9, 2008)
Asked whether Israel was using the right tactics in trying to quell the rocket fire on Sderot and the western Negev, McCain praised Defense Minister Ehud Barak - terming him “one of the great military people” he has met - and added, “I can’t give you a good answer as to how you respond to these rocket attacks.” But, he then said, “I can tell you that I believe that if rocket attacks came across the border of the United States of America, that the American people would probably demand pretty vigorous actions in response. I think I know my constituency in the state of Arizona, and they would be pretty exercised if rockets came across our southern border.” (The Jerusalem Post, March 19, 2008).
McCain said that while he would never tell Israel not to speak with Hamas, he was personally against it. “Someone is going to have to answer me the question of how you are going to negotiate with an organization that is dedicated to your extinction,” McCain said. (The Jerusalem Post, March 19, 2008).
“The United States should oppose any U.N. statement or resolution that fails to condemn vociferously the terrorist tactics employed by Hamas, including its rocket attacks against Israeli civilians. For the Security Council to address the humanitarian situation in Gaza without reference to the Israeli security situation would constitute a failure of responsibility.” (Letter to Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, January 23, 2008)
“The unfortunate outcome in Gaza will lead to more suffering for its people as the terrorist Hamas has assumed control of the territory through force of arms. It also faces Israel with the threat of continued terrorist attack from Gaza, something no sovereign state would or should be expected to ignore. There can be no ‘engagement’ with Hamas. No one should expect Israel to engage movements committed to its destruction.
For Hamas and their ilk, the issue is not the borders resulting from the 1967 war, it is about the borders resulting from the 1948 War of Independence. Hamas, and its Iranian sponsors, do not want peace, they want the destruction of Israel. We must contain Hamas, and support Israel in its legitimate efforts to ensure Hamas control of Gaza does not further threaten Israeli security....We should also work to make Iran pay a price for support of Hamas, Hizbullah and other terrorist groups. Finally, we should support Israel in its necessary and just efforts to defend itself from the dangers posed by Hamas.” (The Jerusalem Post, July 5, 2007)
“In the wake of yesterday’s Palestinian elections, Hamas must change itself fundamentally - renounce violence, abandon its goal of eradicating Israel and accept the two-state solution. These elections are evidence that democracy is indeed spreading in the Middle East, but Hamas is not a partner for peace so long as they advocate the overthrow of Israel.” (Statement released the day after Hamas won the Palestinian elections, January 26, 2006)
Peace with the Palestinians:
“I can’t react to every comment that Senator Obama makes, because it probably will change,” McCain told a crowd of supporters while campaigning in Florida. “The point is Jerusalem is undivided. Jerusalem is the capital,” he continued, and, in an effort to offer a practical demonstration of his stance, suggested moving the American embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv. However, McCain qualified his comments by emphasizing that regardless of his position, the status of the city is still subject to negotiation. “The subject of Jerusalem itself will be addressed in negotiations by the Israeli government and people,” he said. (The Jerusalem Post, June 7, 2008)
“There’s a list of issues that separate them, from water, to the right of return, to settlements. Look at the Oslo Accords, which basically laid out a roadmap for addressing these major issues. And settlements is one of them, but certainly one of the issues right now is the shelling of Sderot, which I visited. As you know, they're shelling from across the border. If the United States was being rocketed across one of our borders, that would probably gain prominence as an issue.” (Interview with Jeffrey Goldberg from the Atlantic Magazine, May 30, 2008)
“I would have a hands-on approach. I would be the chief negotiator. I have been there for thirty years. I know the leaders, I know them extremely well. Ehud Barak and I have gone back thirty years. I knew Olmert when he was mayor of Jerusalem. I’ve met many times with Netanyahu. I've met with Mahmoud Abbas. In terms of envoys, there are a large number of people who could be extremely effective, and I apologize for ducking the question, but it would have to be dictated by the state of relations at the time. For example, we know that there were behind-the-scenes conversations Israel was having with Syria. Now it’s broken into the public arena. So it would depend on the state of things. If they were more advanced in talks, which they are not, with Hamas, then you need someone like a mechanic. If it’s someone who needs to lay out a whole framework, it would have to be someone who commands the respect of both sides, someone who has an impact on world opinion.” (Interview with Jeffrey Goldberg from the Atlantic Magazine, May 30, 2008)
“In respect to people like Mahmoud Abbas, who want to have a peaceful settlement with the government of Israel, to settle their differences in a peaceful and amicable fashion. If you are talking about Hamas or Hezbollah, which are dedicated to the extinction of the state of Israel, then no. It depends on who you're talking about.” (Interview with Jeffrey Goldberg from the Atlantic Magazine, May 30, 2008)
“I don't think the conflict is a sore. I think it's a national security challenge. I think it's important to achieve peace in the Middle East on a broad variety of fronts and I think that if the Israeli-Palestinian issue were decided tomorrow, we would still face the enormous threat of radical Islamic extremism. I think it's very vital, don't get me wrong. That's why I've spent so much time there. The first time I visited Israel was thirty years ago, with Scoop Jackson and other senators, when I was in the Navy. I visited Yad Vashem (Israel's Holocaust memorial) with Joe Lieberman the last time I was in Israel. So my absolute commitment is to peace between Israel and the Palestinians. But the dangers that we face in the Middle East are incredibly severe, in the form of radical Islamic extremists.” (Interview with Jeffrey Goldberg from the Atlantic Magazine, May 30, 2008)
Asked in an interview when would he get involved in the peace process if he were to become President, McCain responded, “Immediately. And, as I said, I don’t know how many trips I’ve made to Israel. I know all of the leadership well. I know the parameters that they’re operating under, and I feel fully qualified to hit the ground running.” (JTA, April 9, 2008)
“I believe that President Abbas wants to get this process started,” McCain said. “I believe he does not support the kind of activity that is taking place in Gaza. I know that the US government is fully committed to try and stop this violence, this cross-border violence that is taking place.” (The Jerusalem Post, March 19, 2008)
“An all-encompassing process was tried by Clinton, and was very hard,” said McCain. The process, he said should entail “confidence building.” Ground rules should be established, and leaders should lay out what is and isn't negotiable. “I'm a bit reluctant to say what should happen, first, second and third, because then it becomes a target of intransigence.”
Asked his thoughts about a Palestinian state, McCain said it should be the “ultimate end,” but first there needed to be “peace,” which he later explained as security and an end to terror. “The long-elusive quest for peace between Israel and the Palestinians must remain a priority,” McCain wrote in Foreign Affairs. “But the goal must be genuine peace, and so Hamas must be isolated even as the United States intensifies its commitment to finding an enduring settlement.” (Discussion with Jewish leaders, October 30, 2007).
“While Israel and its supporters have little choice other than attempting to support the government of Mahmoud Abbas, we should have no illusions. Abbas has not been a strong leader, has not been able to control Palestinian terrorism, and has not been effective in asserting control.
Assistance to Abbas must be given with the understanding that his control is less than total. The U.S. should also work to ensure Hamas is isolated for its terrorism - within the region and in Europe.” (The Jerusalem Post, July 5, 2007)
“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.” (May 2006)
“The Oslo accord failed because it was based on the premise that the Palestinian and Israeli peoples could live peacefully together. The security fence will test whether they can live peacefully apart. There will be further negotiations on the exact geographic location of the fence that can be agreed upon by both parties. The United States is happy to consult and advise, but the people that determine the security of the state of Israel is the Government of Israel.” (Press Conference with Silvan Shalom, August 19, 2003)
“Terrorism is terrorism, whether in the form of professional killers who crash civilian aircraft into buildings or amateur murderers undistinguished by anything other than their willingness to take innocent lives. A political solution to the conflict with the Palestinians is the best answer to Israeli insecurity, of course. But no moral nation--neither Israel nor America--can allow terrorists to chart the political course of its people. No freedom-loving nation can tolerate a terrorist state on its border. And no great nation can abandon the obligations of moral clarity for the convenience of situational ethics. If we are serious about the values we in America and Israel live by, and the opportunities we would like all people in the Middle East to enjoy, we can allow terrorists no role in the political process.” (Speech delivered at the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee, April 2002)
Negotiations with Syria and Lebanon:
In response to the question, “What is the difference between an American president negotiating with Ahmadinejad and Ehud Olmert negotiating with the Syrians?” McCain said: “You don't see him sitting down opposite Bashar, do you? (Bashar al-Assad is president of Syria.) I mean, that's the point here. It was perfectly fine that Ryan Crocker spoke with the Iranian ambassador in Baghdad. The point is you don't give legitimacy by lending prestige of a face-to-face meeting, with no preconditions.” (Interview with Jeffrey Goldberg from the Atlantic Magazine, May 30, 2008)
In response to the Israel-Syria peace talks: “Senator McCain’s view is that the sovereign government of Israel should be free to make its own decisions on how best to defend Israel and whether to engage in negotiations,” said Randy Scheunemann, the campaign’s director of foreign policy and national security, who wouldn’t comment on the potential for an American role in the talks. (The Jerusalem Post, May 22, 2008)
“To achieve lasting peace, sooner or later, one way or another, Hizbullah must be disarmed and its patron in Damascus confronted.”
“We should be deeply concerned by the ongoing subversion of Lebanese sovereignty by Syria and strongly support efforts to move forward on the investigation of the assassination of Lebanon’s former prime minister. The international community must also do more to hold Syria accountable for its past and current actions in Lebanon - including its support for Hizbullah which seeks Israel’s destruction. Lasting peace and security in Lebanon must include a democratic government that has a monopoly on authority within Lebanon’s borders. That means no independent militias, no Hizbullah fighters, no weapons and equipment flowing to Hizbullah across Lebanon’s borders. That means no independent militias, no Hizbullah fighters, no weapons and equipment flowing to Hizbullah across Lebanon’s borders. So long as that is not the case, Hizbullah is likely to further regroup, reconstitute, and rearm.” (August 8, 2007)
The United States-Israel Relationship:
John McCain said he would move the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem upon being elected president. “Right away,” Sen. McCain said. “I’ve been committed to that proposition for years.”(JTA, July 25, 2008)
“I really think that we should understand that the US and Israel are partners. Israel is not a client of the United States,” he said. “If you are partners, then you don’t dictate what you think the terms of the survival of a nation should be.” (The Jerusalem Post, March 19, 2008).
“I strongly support increased US assistance, to include providing needed military equipment and technology, for our democratic ally Israel in order to maintain its qualitative military edge relative to its regional adversaries as they acquire and seek more potent military capabilities - often from outside suppliers, such as Russia in the case of Syria and Iran...Israel’s enemies are too numerous, its margin of error too small, and our shared interests and values too great for any other position...Expanding economic opportunity and promoting democratic institutions, grounded in, among other things, a functioning and impartial judiciary, a free press, a robust political opposition, and respect for women's and minority rights, are vital elements to an enduring peace in the region.” (The Jerusalem Post, August 22, 2007)
“Late last year, I had the opportunity to visit with the families of two Israeli soldiers - Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser - who were captured last summer by Hizbullah during a cross-border raid.
My visit with the loved ones of these brave and noble young men reminded me of the great sacrifices the Israeli people have made to defend their sacred soil and win their rightful status as a beacon of freedom and faith. To this day, Eldad and Ehud continue to be held captive.
Indeed, Israel has never had the opportunity to take a holiday from history, for it has been tested more, in less time, than any nation on Earth. The tests continue today in the form of suicide bombers and rocket fire and in the existential threats issued routinely by the Iranian president.
Long considered a dear friend to America, today Israel is our natural ally in what is a titanic struggle against Islamic extremists - an enemy whose sinister nature I need not explain to the people of Israel.
If elected President of the United States, I will strengthen America’s bedrock commitment to the security of the State of Israel.
First and foremost, we must continue to provide Israel with whatever military equipment and technology required to retain Israel's qualitative military advantage and to defend itself.
Just as important is the strengthening of our diplomatic ties. As President, I will invite Israel to play a leading role in the League of Democracies that I have proposed - an organization of like-minded nations working together in the cause of peace.” (The Jerusalem Post, May 24, 2007)
“In addition to her moral commitment to Israel’s security, America must provide Israel with whatever military equipment and technology she requires to defend herself, above and beyond what we supply today if necessary. Our support for Israel must intensify, as threats to Israeli security have intensified.” (AIPAC conference, June 2001)
“I’m a student of history and anybody who is familiar with the history of the Jewish people and with the Zionist idea can’t help but admire those who established the Jewish homeland. I think it’s remarkable that Zionism has been in the middle of wars and great trials and it has held fast to the ideals of democracy and social justice and human rights. I think that the State of Israel remains under significant threat from terrorist organizations as well as the continued advocacy of the Iranians to wipe Israel off the map.” (Interview with Jeffrey Goldberg from the Atlantic Magazine, May 30, 2008)
Speech to 2008 AIPAC Policy Conference
Thank you very much. Thank you for that kind welcome and thank you, Ron, for your generous remarks and the invitation to address you. I see that we have some students here, including a few from Arizona and I welcome you to Washington and your money and it’s--it’s a pleasure as always to be in the company of the men and women of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.
And I know that all of us are proud to be in the company of my dear and beloved, distinguished Senator from the State of Connecticut, my dear friend, Joe Lieberman. Joe, thank you; a man of humility, a man of kindness, and a great and dear friend--not only of America--my family, State of Israel and the world.
My friends, all of you involved in the work of AIPAC have taken up a great and vital cause and a cause set firmly in the American heart. When President Truman recognized the new State of Israel 60 years ago he acted on the highest ideals and best instincts of our country. He was a man with courage and a sense of history; and he surely knew what great challenges the Jewish State would face in its early years. To his lasting credit, he resolved that the people of Israel would not face them alone because they would always have a friend and ally in the United States of America.
The cause of Israel and of our common security has also depended on men and women of courage, and I’ve been lucky enough to know quite a few of them. I think often of one in particular, the late Senator Henry “Scoop” Jackson. I got to know Senator Jackson when I was the Navy Liaison Officer to the United States Senate. In 1979, I traveled with him to Israel where I knew he was considered a hero. But I had no idea just how admired he was until we landed in the airport in Tel Aviv to find a crowd of 700 or 800 Israelis calling out his name, waving signs that read God Bless You Scoop and Senator Jackson, Thank You. Scoop Jackson had the special respect of the Jewish people, the kind of respect accorded to brave and faithful friends. He was and remains the model of what an American Statesman should be.
The people of Israel reserve a special respect for courage because so much courage has been required of them. In the record of history sheer survival in the face of Israel’s many trials would have been impressive enough but Israel has achieved much more than that these past 60 years. Israel has endured and thrived and their people have built a nation that’s an inspiration to free nations everywhere.
Yet no matter how successful a nation of Israel or how far removed from the Holocaust their experiences will never pass from memory. Not long ago I was in Jerusalem with Senator Lieberman and our colleague Lindsay Graham, and we went to the Holocaust Memorial, Yad Vashem. And for all the boundless examples of cruelty and inhumanity to be found there, for all the pain and grief remembered there, somehow I was especially moved by the story of the camp survivors who died from the very nourishment given to them by their liberators. They’d starved and suffered so much that their bodies were too weak even for food. They endured it all, only to die at the moment of their deliverance. These are the kinds of experiences that the Jewish people carry in memory and they are far from the worst experiences of the Holocaust. These are the kinds of grieves and afflictions from which the State of Israel offered escape, and today when we join in saying never again that is not a wish or request or a plea to the enemies of Israel; it is a promise that the United States and Israel will honor against any enemy, against enemy--any enemy --against any enemy who cares to test us.
The threats to Israel’s security are large and growing and America's commitment must grow as well. I strongly support the increase in military aid to Israel scheduled to begin in October. I am committed to making certain Israel maintains its qualitative military edge. Israel’s enemies are too numerous --Israel’s enemies are too numerous, its margin of error too small, and our shared interests and values too great for us to follow any other policy. Foremost --foremost in all our minds is the threat posed by the regime in Tehran. The Iranian President has called for Israel to be wiped off the map and suggested that Israel’s Jewish population should return to Europe. He calls Israel a stinking corpse; that it’s on its way to annihilation but the Iranian leadership does far more than issue vial insults. It acts in ways directly detrimental to the security of Israel and the United States. A sponsor of both Hamas and Hezbollah, the leadership of Iran has repeatedly used violence to undermine Israel in the Middle East peace process; it has trained, financed, and equipped extremists in Iraq who have killed American soldiers, fighting to bring freedom to that country. It remains the world’s chief sponsor of terrorism and threatens to destabilize the entire Middle East from Basra to Beirut.
Tehran’s continued pursuit of nuclear weapons poses an unacceptable risk, a danger we cannot allow. Emboldened by nuclear weapons, Iran would feel free to sponsor terrorist attacks--any--against any perceived enemy. It’s flouting of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty would render that agreement obsolete and could induce Turkey, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and others to join a nuclear arms race. The world would have to live indefinitely with the possibility that Tehran might pass nuclear materials or weapons to one of its allied terrorist networks. Armed as well with its ballistic missile arsenal an Iranian nuclear bomb would pose an existential threat to the people of Israel.
European negotiators have proposed a peaceful end-game for Tehran should it abandon its nuclear ambitions and comply with the UN Security Council Resolutions. The plan offers far-reaching economic incentives, external support for a civilian nuclear energy and program, and integration into the international community. But Tehran has said no. The Iranians have spent years working toward a nuclear program and the idea that they now seek nuclear weapons because we refuse to engage in Presidential level talks is a serious misreading of history.
In reality--in reality a series of Administrations have tried to talk to Iran and none harder--none tried harder than the Clinton Administration. In 1998 the Secretary of State made a public overture to the Iranians, laid out a road map to normal relations and for two years tried to engage. The Clinton Administration even lifted some sanctions and Secretary Albright apologized for American actions going back to the 1950s. But even under President Khatami a man by all accounts less radical than the current President, Iran rejected these overtures. Even so we hear talk of a meeting with the Iranian leadership offered up as if it were some sudden inspiration, a bold new idea that somehow nobody has ever thought of before. [Laughs] Yet it’s hard to see what such a Summit with President Ahmadinejad would actually gain except an earful of anti-Semitic rants and a worldwide audience for a man who denies one Holocaust and talks before frenzied crowds about starting another. [Emphasis Added]
Such a spectacle would harm Iranian moderates and dissidents as the radicals and hardliners strengthen their position and suddenly acquire the appearance of respectability. Rather than sitting down unconditionally with the Iranian President or Supreme Leader in the hope that we can talk sense into them, we must create the weary world pressures that will peacefully but decisively change the path that they are on. Essential to this strategy --essential to this strategy is the UN Security Council which should impose progressively tougher political and economic sanctions. Should the Security Council continue to delay in this responsibility, the United States must lead like-minded countries in imposing multi-lateral sanctions outside the UN framework. I’m proud to have been a leader on these issues for years having co-authored the 1992 Iran/Iraq Arms Nonproliferation Act.
Over a year ago I proposed applying sanctions to restrict Iran’s ability to import refined petroleum products on which it is highly dependent and the time has come for an international campaign to do just that. A severe limit on Iranian imports of gasoline would create immediate pressure on Khomeini and Ahmadinejad to change course and to cease in the pursuit of nuclear weapons. At the same time, we need the support of those in the region who are most concern about Iran and of our European partners as well. They can help by imposing targeted sanctions that will impose a heavy cost on the regime’s leaders, including the denial of visas and freezing of assets; as a further measure to contain and deter Iran, the United States should impose financial sanctions on the Central Bank of Iran which aids in Iran’s terrorism and weapons proliferation. We must--we must apply the full force of law to prevent business dealings with Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps.
I was pleased--I was pleased to join Senators Lieberman and Kyle in backing an Amendment calling for the designation of the Revolutionary Guard as a terrorist organization responsible for killing American troops in Iraq. Over three-quarters of the Senate supported this obvious step, but not Senator Obama. He opposed this Resolution because its support for countering Iranian influence in Iraq was he said quote a wrong message not only to the world but also to the region. [Laughs] But here too, he’s mistaken; holding Iran’s influence in check and holding a terrorist organization accountable sends exactly the right message to Iran, to the region, and to the world.
We should privatize the sanctions against Iran by launching a worldwide divestment campaign. As more people--businesses, pension funds, and financial institutions across the world divest from companies doing business with Iran the radical elite who run that country will become even more unpopular than they are already.
Years ago--years ago the moral clarity and conviction of civilized nations came together in a divestment campaign against South Africa helping to rid that nation of the evil of apartheid. In our day, we must use that same power and moral conviction against the regime in Iran and help--and help to safeguard the people of Israel and the peace of the world. In all of this, we will not only be defending our own safety and welfare, but also the democratic aspirations of the Iranian people. They are a great--they are a great and civilized people with little sympathy for the terrorists their leaders finance and no wish to threaten other nations with nuclear weapons. Iran’s rulers would be very different if the people themselves had a choice in the matter and American policy should always reflect their hopes for a freer and more just society.
The same holds true --the same holds true for the Palestinian people most of whom ask only for a better life in a less violent world. They are badly served by the terrorist led group in charge of Gaza; this is a group that still refuses to recognize Israel’s right to exist, refuses to denounce violence, and refuses to acknowledge prior peace commitments. They deliberately target Israeli civilians in an attempt to terrorize the Jewish population. They spread violence and hatred and with every new bombing they setback the cause of their own people.
During my last visit to Israel in March I saw for myself the work of Hamas in the town of Sderot just across the Border as you know from Gaza. I saw the houses that had been hit by Hamas rockets; in the face of injuries, death, and destruction thousands of Israelis have had to flee. Many others have stayed to carry on as best they can. I visited the home of a man named Pinhas Amar, who lives with his disabled wife, Aliza and their children. One day last year the sirens sounded again to alert the town to incoming rocket-fire. The rest of the family found cover. Aliza on the other side of the house was knocked out of her wheelchair and struck by shrapnel. This occurred on December 17th and from that day until the day of my visit just some three months later, more than 1,000 rockets had struck Sderot. Today, siren warnings are commonplace; the elementary schools are surrounded by concrete shelters and children walking the streets in costume for Purim celebrations did so in fear.
No nation in the world would allow its population to be attacked so incessantly, to be killed and intimidated so mercilessly without responding.
And the nation of Israel is no exception. Prime Minister Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas are engaged in talks that all of us hope will yield progress toward peace. Yet while we encourage this process we must also insure that Israel’s people can live in safety until there is a Palestinian leadership willing and able to deliver peace. The peace process that places face in terrorists can never end in peace and we do no favors to the Palestinian people by conferring approval upon the terrorist syndicate that has seized power in Gaza.
Likewise, Israel’s chance for enduring peace with Lebanon depends on a Lebanese government that has a monopoly on authority within its country’s Borders. That means no independent militias, no Hezbollah fighters, no weapons and equipment flowing to Hezbollah. Hezbollah fighters recently took up arms against their fellow Lebanese starting the worst internal fighting since the Civil War ended in 1990. In the process they extracted an agreement for a new political arrangement in which Hezbollah and its allies can veto any Cabinet decision. As a leader of Hezbollah often reminds us, this group’s mission is the defeat of Israel. The international community needs to more fully empower our allies in Lebanon, not only with military aid but also with the resources to undermine Hezbollah’s appeal--better schools, hospitals, roads and power generation and the like. We simply cannot afford to cede Lebanon's future to Syria and Iran.
And we have an additional task; in the summer of 2006 Hamas and Hezbollah kidnapped--kidnapped three young Israelis, Gilad Shalit, Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser. And they’ve held them ever since. I met with the families of two of these men in December 2006 and heard firsthand about their ordeal. I committed then to bring attention to their situation, to insist that the Geneva Conventions are observed and call for the swift release of these men.
These men are being unlawfully held and they must be set free and--and returned home to Israel.
Another great--matter of great importance to the security of both America and Israel is Iraq. You would never know from listening to those who are still caught up in angry arguments over yesterday’s options but our troops in Iraq have made hard-one progress under General Petraeus’ new strategy. And Iraqi political leaders have moved ahead slowly and insufficiently but forward nonetheless. Sectarian violence declined dramatically; Sunnis in Anbar Province and throughout Iraq are cooperating in the fight against Al Qaeda and Shia extremist militias no longer control Basra. The Malaki government and its forces are in charge. Al Qaeda terrorists are on the run and our troops are going to make sure that they never--never come back.
It’s worth recalling that America’s progress in Iraq is the direct result of the new strategy that Senator Obama vehemently opposed. It was the strategy he predicted would fail when he voted to cut off funds for our forces in Iraq. He now says he intends to withdraw combat troops from Iraq one to two brigades per month until they’re all removed. He will do so regardless of the conditions in Iraq, regardless of the consequences for our national security, regardless of Israel’s security and in disregard of the best advice of our Commander’s on the ground. This course will result in a catastrophe. If our troops are ordered to make a forced retreat we risk all out civil war genocide and a failed state in the heart of the Middle East. Al Qaeda terrorists would rejoice in the defeat of the United States; allowing a potential terrorist sanctuary would profoundly affect the security of the United States, Israel, and our other friends and would invite further intervention from Iraq’s neighbors, including a very much emboldened Iran.
We must not let this happen. We must not leave the region to suffer chaos, terrorist violence, and a wider war. My friends, as the people of Israel know better than most, the safety of free people can never be taken for granted. And in a world full of dangers, Israel and the United States must always stand together.
The State of Israel stands as a singular achievement in many ways and not the least is its achievement as the great democracy of the Middle East. If there are ties between America and Israel that critics of our alliance have never understood perhaps that’s because they do not fully understand the love of liberty and the pursuit of justice. But they should know--they should know those ties cannot be broken. We were brought together by shared ideals and by shared adversity; we have been comrades in struggle and trusted partners in the quest for peace. We are the most natural of allies and like Israel itself--that alliance is forever. Thank you.
(Speech to 2008 AIPAC Policy Conference, June 2, 2008 in Washington, D.C.)
Foreign Policy Advisers
In addition to each candidate’s personal views, another important aspect in evaluating candidates and their foreign policy agendas is to take a look at each candidate’s team of foreign policy and national security advisers. Below is a list of Sen. McCain’s foreign policy team. Some play an active day-to-day role; others are not as centrally involved.
Richard Lee Armitage, President George W. Bush’s deputy secretary of state and an international business consultant and lobbyist, informal foreign policy adviser
Bernard Aronson, former assistant secretary of state for inter-American affairs and now a managing partner of private equity investment company ACON Investments, informal foreign policy adviser
William L. Ball III, secretary of the Navy during President Reagan’s administration and managing director of lobbying firm the Loeffler Group, informal national security adviser
James A. Baker III, Honorary Chair at the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy at Rice University and former Secretary of State (1989-1992)
Stephen E. Biegun, former national security aide to then-Sen. Bill Frist, R-Tenn., former executive secretary of the National Security Council, and now Ford Motors vice president of international governmental affairs, national security adviser
Dan Blumenthal, Resident Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and former senior director for China, Taiwan and Mongolia in the Secretary of Defense’s Office of International Security Affairs
Max Boot, Council on Foreign Relations editor and former Wall Street Journal editorial editor, foreign policy adviser
Brig. Gen. Tom Bruner, Iowa veterans advisory committee
Eric Burgeson, lobbyist at Barbour Griffith and Rogers, energy and national security adviser
Ambassador Richard R. Burt, Senior Advisor at Kissinger McLarty Associates and Senior Advisor to the Carlyle Group, a private equity investment firm, former U.S. Ambassador to the Federal Republic of Germany (1985-1989)
Lorne W. Craner, International Republican Institute president, informal foreign policy adviser
Lawrence S. Eagleburger, President George H.W. Bush’s secretary of state and a senior public policy adviser with law firm Baker Donelson, endorsed McCain April 10
Brig. Gen. Russ Eggers, Iowa veterans advisory committee
Maj. Gen. Merrill Evans, Iowa veterans advisory committee
Niall Ferguson, Harvard historian and Hoover Institution senior fellow, informal foreign policy adviser
Richard Fontaine, Legislative Assistant for Senator McCain on Foreign Affairs and former Associate Director at the National Security Council, foreign policy adviser
Michael J. Green, former Asia adviser to President George W. Bush and now Japan chair at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Asia policy adviser
Gen. Alexander M. Haig, Jr., President Reagan’s secretary of state, endorsed McCain April 10
Maj. Gen. Evan “Curly” Hultman, Iowa veterans advisory committee
Frederick W. Kagan, American Enterprise Institute Resident Scholar
Robert Kagan, senior associate with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Washington Post columnist and former speechwriter and member of the Policy Planning Staff for then-secretary of state George P. Shultz, foreign policy adviser
Gen. Jack Keane, retired Army General and co-author of G.W. Bush’s “surge” strategy for Iraq
Brig. Gen. Robert Michael Kimmitt, current deputy Treasury secretary, informal national security adviser
Henry A. Kissinger, President Nixon and President Ford’s secretary of state who met McCain in Vietnam and is now a consultant, informal adviser
Col. Andrew F. Krepinevich, president of the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, briefed McCain as well as Sen. Hillary Clinton and Gov. Bill Richardson
William Kristol, The Weekly Standard editor, informal foreign policy adviser
Adm. Charles Larson, former superintendent of the U.S. Naval Academy and now chairman of consulting firm ViaGlobal Group, informal national security adviser
John Lehman, Foreign and Defense Policy Advisor to John McCain 2008, Chairman of J.F. Lehman and Co.
Robert “Bud” McFarlane, President Reagan’s national security adviser and now a principal with Energy & Communications Solutions, energy and national security adviser
Brig. Gen. Warren “Bud” Nelson, Iowa veterans advisory committee
Brig. Gen. Eddie Newman, Iowa veterans advisory committee
Maj. Gen. John Peppers, Iowa veterans advisory committee
Maj. Ralph Peters, writer and retired Army officer, informal national security adviser
Brig. Gen. Maurice Phillips, Iowa veterans advisory committee
Gen. Colin L. Powell, President George W. Bush’s secretary of state, informal foreign policy adviser
Peter W. Rodman, senior fellow at Brookings and expert on regional policies from Middle East and Africa, former senior foreign policy official in five Republican administrations, including as a top aide to Henry Kissinger, foreign policy adviser
Mark Salter, one of McCain’s closest aides, speechwriter, former Chief of Staff
Kori Schake, Distinguished Chair in International Security Studies at the U.S. Military Academy and fellow at the Hoover Institution, senior defense adviser
Randy Scheunemann, national security aide to then-Senate Majority Leaders Bob Dole and Trent Lott and now a lobbyist, defense and foreign policy coordinator (for this cycle and 2000)
James R. Schlesinger, President Nixon and President Ford’s secretary of defense, energy and national security adviser
Gary Schmitt, former staff director of the Senate Intelligence Committee and now an American Enterprise Institute scholar, foreign policy adviser
Randall Schriver, founding partner at Armitage International LLC, Senior Associate at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, and former deputy assistant secretary of state for East Asian affairs in George W. Bush administration
Lt. Gen. Brent Scowcroft, national security adviser to Presidents Ford and George H.W. Bush and founder of business consultancy the Scowcroft Group, adviser
George P. Shultz, President Reagan’s secretary of state and a Hoover Institution Fellow, endorsed McCain April 10, 2007
Brig. Gen. W.L. “Bill” Wallace, Iowa veterans advisory committee
Maj. Gen. Gary Wattnem, Iowa veterans advisory committee
Ruth Wedgewood, Director of the International Law and Organizations Program at The Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS)
Richard S. Williamson, senior foreign policy posts under presidents Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, and George W. Bush and now U.S. special envoy to Sudan, foreign policy adviser
R. James Woolsey, former CIA director and now a vice president at consulting company Booz Allen Hamilton, energy and national security adviser
(List compiled from The Washington Post, October 2, 2007; Newsweek, June 3, 2008; JTA, September 16, 2008; The Connect U.S. Fund, October 8, 2008.)
Sources: Haaretz, Jerusalem Post, JTA