2004 Presidential Candidates' Views on the Middle East
Statement by John Edwards on the United States and Israel
John Edwards believes that Israel is one of America's vital allies, and that the U.S. must support Israel to help it fight terror and achieve peace. On August 9, 2001, as Edwards was concluding a trip to Israel that included meetings with senior Israeli political and military leaders, a Palestinian suicide bomber attacked the Sbarro pizzeria in Jerusalem, near the King David Hotel where Edwards was staying. This horrific tragedy reinforced Edwards's belief in the importance of America's historic relationship with Israel, and his resolve to stand by Israel's side as it fights terror and works toward peace.
Edwards has been one of Israel's strongest and most consistent supporters in the U.S. Senate, and as President, he will work in the tradition of Democratic Presidents like Harry Truman, John Kennedy and Bill Clinton to strengthen the special relationship between the United States and Israel and the Jewish people. He will work tirelessly to strengthen America's economic and political ties with Israel - the region's only democracy -- and will ensure that America will do what is necessary to ensure Israel's security, including through economic and military aid.
A Commitment to Israel's Security
Edwards believes that one of the most important ways America can help ensure Israel's long-term security is by helping the Israeli people live in an environment of peace, with safe and secure borders. He will play an active role in negotiating a long-term settlement between Israel and the Palestinians and the Arab states - not just through words and promises and photo-op summits, but through sustained, high-level engagement. He will be involved in these negotiations personally, and will appoint a senior, high-level envoy to help promote peace in the region.
Edwards supports a two-state solution, with the Jewish state of Israel and a legitimate, democratic Palestinian state living side-by-side in peace. All the specific differences between Israel and the Palestinians must be solved through dialogue and negotiation, not terrorism and violence. As President, Edwards will do everything in his power to see that the Palestinian leadership fully dismantles terrorist organizations like Hamas and Islamic Jihad, works to promote democracy and uphold fundamental freedoms, ends corruption, and stops promoting violence through the media and school system.
Standing By Israel's Side to Achieve Peace
The Israeli people deserve to live without the fear of terrorism, in a Jewish state with Jerusalem as their capital; and the Palestinian people deserve to live under a representative government that fights terrorism and corruption, and supports fundamental freedoms. Edwards believes that as long as the Palestinian leadership fails to end terror, Israel has a right to take measures to defend itself. Such defensive measures are not the cause of terrorism - they are the response to terrorism. Edwards recognizes that these measures, however justified, are not a substitute for negotiations that can lead to a long-term settlement.
To achieve peace, both sides recognize that they will have to make difficult choices. But these decisions must be made by the parties themselves, not imposed from the outside. Edwards believes that the U.S. and others in the international community must stand ready to support the Israelis and the Palestinians as they make these difficult decisions, through economic assistance, political support and helping to implement any settlement.
A Strong, Consistent Commitment, Not Mixed Messages
Senator John Edwards believes that this is not the time to send mixed messages about the special relationship between America and Israel. His support for Israel and a strong U.S.-Israeli relationship - and his commitment to achieve a lasting peace in the Middle East - is something he believes deeply. He has a proven record of consistent support in the U.S. Senate; and as President, he will work tirelessly to use American leadership to stand by Israel, fight terror and achieve a lasting peace, so that the region will reflect Isaiah's vision, in which "nation shall not lift up sword against nation; neither shall they learn war any more." (John Edwards for President)
John Edwards on President Bush's Middle East policy, Energy Independence & the Peace Process
My criticism of the president on the Middle East peace process has been a lack of engagement. Edwards said the road map the Bush administration drafted to create a Palestinian state alongside Israel by '05 is a good thing, but isn't sufficient without sustained U.S. involvement. Edwards: I think the test for him now is: Will he follow through? It's not enough to show up for one meeting and over a short period of time stay engaged on this issue." Edwards said the U.S. "should continue working with Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas, despite Abbas' failure to curb violence in the region. (Hotline, June 16, 2003)
Presidents of both parties have tolerated and even supported authoritarian regimes in the Middle East, in part because the United States depends on them for oil. A real commitment to energy independencewhich the Bush administration clearly lackswould not only strengthen the U.S. economy but free the United States to promote American values. The United States must also do far more to promote peace between Israel and the Palestinians. (Essay, ForeignPolicy.com, April 2003)
We haven't done enough to work on the peace process in Israel; we didn't sustain the progress that had been made there. (Salon.com, January 14, 2003)
John Edwards at the Arab American Institute Debates
MR. ZOGBY: What concrete steps would you take to convince Israel and the Palestinians that the U.S. is serious about promoting peace? We had a roadmap, and theres great concern today that its not only violence but that oppression continues, that a wall is being built that is taking land and taking taking away hope, frankly. Settlements are being built and people are dying on all sides. And the question is, what would you do what kind of leadership and concrete steps would you take to move this process from where it is today to where you feel it ought to be?
SEN. EDWARDS: Well, Jim, as you and everyone in your audience knows, it is a very, very difficult situation, one that I believe will require serious long-term, sustained engagement by the United States at the highest possible level. You know, if you look back historically at efforts to move toward a serious and lasting peace in the Middle East, the example I always use is President Clinton at Camp David. I mean, heres a president thats very bright, very talented, working extraordinarily hard to reach an agreement, and it was unsuccessful.
I think we have to recognize reality, which is this is going to be a multi-step process, its going to require so many issues you mentioned from the settlements: the right of return, what to do about Jerusalem. Theres a lot of work to be done, and everyone knows that stopping the violence and attacks that are going on now. But I think at the end of the day, the single most important thing for America to do and for an American president to do is to be engaged in a sustained and ongoing way, not shortterm, not showing up occasionally for a meeting; either the president himself or his or her secretary of State, or at a minimum, the envoy for the secretary of State because I think without a serious long-term, sustained engagement from the United States, there is very little chance of anything positive happening, and I think its the single most important thing for us to do.
MR. ZOGBY: The are there any specifics, though, that you would suggest? If you were president today, what would you do? What would you do?
SEN. EDWARDS: Heres what I would do. The first thing is I would go there myself if I were president of the United States. The second thing I would do is make sure that we had my secretary of State there, involved in negotiations over an extended period of time. The third thing I would do is I think we have to find ways to empower those that are within the PA who want peace, and I know that theres a large group of people within the PA who want peace. And we have to find ways to empower them so that the so we dont find a situation where so many will be driven away, so many believe that its hopeless, theres nothing that can be done. I think economic help is one way that we could help empower those who want reform and want peace. But other than that, I dont think there is theres no easy answer here, and I would never suggest that there is. I think the I hate to keep coming back to it, but I think it is what we need. We have the roadmap. The roadmap was a very good idea. The problem is we have gotten off course, as you well know. And I think to get it back on course, its going to require Americas president to be engaged over a long period of time with his his or her secretary of State. (Arab American Institute, October 17, 2003)
We must demand America's active and continuous involvement in addressing the crisis between Israel and the Palestinians and in promoting democracy throughout the Arab world. We must commit to developing a national strategy for energy security, one that would reduce our reliance on the Middle East for such critical resources. -Senator Edwards in the Washington Post, (9/19/2002) (Rescue Mideast Policy)
Edwards on Hamas, Terrorist Cells at January 4 Iowa Debates
The other thing we're -- we know is that we know that terrorist cells exist all over this country -- Islamic Jihad -- they're everywhere -- Hamas. We need to do a much more effective job of putting humans inside those terrorist cells so that we can stop them before they do us harm. (Washington Post, January 5, 2004)
Edwards statement to Jewish Telegraphic Agency
I will play an active role in promoting peace between Israel and the Palestinians and the Arab states not just through words and promises, but through sustained, high-level engagement, including by appointing a senior envoy, answering directly to me, to move this process forward.
I support a two-state solution, with the Jewish state of Israel and a legitimate, democratic and territorially viable Palestinian state living side by side in peace.
All the specific differences between Israel and the Palestinians must be solved through dialogue and negotiation, not terrorism and violence.
The Israeli people deserve to live without the fear of terrorism, and the Palestinian people deserve to live under a representative government that fights terrorism, ends corruption and supports fundamental freedoms.
As long as the Palestinian leadership fails to end terror, Israel has a right to take measures to defend itself. Such defensive measures are not the cause of terrorism they are the response to terrorism.
Yet, these measures should not be a substitute for negotiations that can lead to a long-term settlement. To achieve peace, both sides recognize that they will have to make difficult choices.
But these decisions must be made by the parties themselves, not imposed from the outside. I believe that the United States and others in the international community must stand ready to support the Israelis and the Palestinians as they make these difficult decisions. (JTA, January 7, 2004)
Edwards on the fence and Israeli-Palestinian conflict
Well first I understand, Israel's ____ tactic__ that they needed to do something with the wall. The wall will not replace negotiations between the parties and the reality is without American engagement there is no meaningful chance of anything positive happening. What I would do if I was President of the United States, is first make certain America has sustained and presence and engagement in Israel which means having Secretaries or Secretary of State envoy there. Second, find ways to bring the parties to some feelings of trust which don't presently exist, for example, going to the Palestinians and saying "we know that these two leaders of Hamas are engaged in terrorism, they should be arrested," and in exchange the Israelis should allow freer passage in the West Bank. To try to create some level of trust so that we can go forward with the more difficult issues, the wall, Jerusalem, the right of return. And third, go to the Palestinians, particularly those within the PA, who actually want to reform, and find ways of empowering these people. Because there are ways, we have that ability to provide support and empowerment, economic assistance, other ways to find ways to help those who actually want to move towards peace and toward a two state solution. (Concord, NH on Jan. 8, 2004)
Edwards on Kerry Administration
A new president will bring the world to our side, and with it a stable Iraq, a real chance for freedom and peace in the Middle East, including a safe and secure Israel. (Speech to the Democratic National Convention, July 28, 2004).
Edwards in Vice Presidential Debate
IFILL: Senator Edwards, as we wrap up the foreign policy part of this, I do want to talk to you about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Today, a senior member of Islamic Jihad was killed in Gaza. There have been suicide bombings, targeted assassinations, mortar attacks, all of this continuing at a time when the United States seems absent in the peace-making process.
What would your administration do?
First of all, do you agree that the United States is absent? Maybe you don‘t.
But what would your administration do to try to resolve that conflict?
EDWARDS: Well, first of all, I do agree that we‘ve been largely absent, not entirely absent, but largely absent from the peace-making process over the last four years.
And let me just say a couple of preliminary things and then talk about where we are now.
First, the Israeli people not only have the right to defend themselves, they should defend themselves. They have an obligation to defend themselves.
I mean, if I can, just for a moment, tell you a personal story. I was in Jerusalem a couple of years ago, actually three years ago, in August of 2001, staying at the King David Hotel.
We left in the morning, headed to the airport to leave, and later in the day I found out that that same day, not far from where we were staying, the Sbarro Pizzeria was hit by a suicide bomber in Jerusalem. Fifteen people were killed. Six children were killed.
What are the Israeli people supposed to do? How can they continue to watch Israeli children killed by suicide bombers, killed by terrorists?
They have not only the right to the obligation to defend themselves.
Now, we know that the prime minister has made a decision, an historic decision, to unilaterally withdraw from Gaza. It‘s important for America to participate in helping with that process.
Now, if Gaza‘s being used as a platform for attacking the Israeli people, that has to be stopped. And Israel has a right to defend itself. They don‘t have a partner for peace right now. They certainly don‘t have a partner in Arafat, and they need a legitimate partner for peace.
And I might add, it is very important for America to crack down on the Saudis who have not had a public prosecution for financing terrorism since 9/11. And it‘s important for America to confront the situation in Iran, because Iran is an enormous threat to Israel and to the Israeli people. (Vice Presidential Debate, October 5, 2004)