2004 Presidential Candidates’ Views on the Middle East
Nader on CNN Crossfire
CARLSON: Now, Ralph Nader, you've made the point many times that both parties kind of look alike.
And on one point, I think you're right. Both parties see Israel as America's friend and sort of the anchor of American foreign policy in the region. How do you think America ought to change its relationship with Israel and to what extent is our friendship with Israel responsible for the terrorism against
NADER: Don't confuse Israel with the military government now on top of Israel.
CARLSON: I'm not confusing
CARLSON: I'm asking you the question.
NADER: Yes. The Israeli peace movement is the way to go. They've been connecting with the Palestinian peace movement. They've had two-state solutions. They've had various agreements. And there's more freedom to discuss this issue inside Israel and the freedom of the press and debate and discussion on all issues than there is in the United States.
CARLSON: Do you think
NADER: Wait. Wait.
The United States government is interested in peace between those two peoples. President Bush has already said he believes in a viable Palestinian state and, of course, Israel's security. If they really believe it, they would align themselves with the Israeli peace movement, which draws on ex-military
CARLSON: I understand. Then, do you think this administration or Clinton's administration failure to align themselves with Peace Now and instead of the Sharon government is partly responsible for terrorism against Americans?
NADER: It's not just Peace Now. It's much broader.
CARLSON: You understand the question.
CARLSON: Do you think American support for that government is partly responsible?
NADER: I'm saying that the United States gives a lot of aid to Israel, economic aid, military aid, has great sway with the Israeli government. Over 50 percent of the Israeli people will go for a two- state solution. In fact, it gets up higher than that when the violence subsides on both sides.
And that's what we should do. If you want peace, you support the peace movement in the country that you want the peace movement-the peace accord to be started. (Source: Project Vote Smart [Nader on CNN Crossfire], March 30, 2004)
Nader on U.S. Support for Israel
The third, of course, is that these people see that our country is supporting the Israeli occupation of what's left of Palestinian territory, and that support is coming in the form of military, financial support. Israel now is as secure as it's ever likely to be, according to the Johnson Institute for Strategic Studies, in that country. They are a military powerhouse visà- vis their surrounding countries. They're a technological, educational and an economic powerhouse, and their need for security has been established, and they're backed by the United States. The question is whether we can balance Palestinian justice in order to develop a peaceful settlement in that region. And the negotiations at Tabba last year came very, very close, but there were forces on both sides that don't want it. And we can see the results. And that is a constant television program on Al Jazeera television that millions of people in the Islamic and Arab world see again and again and again. (Project Vote Smart, October 11, 2001)
Nader on Peace Process and the U.S. Relationship with the Israelis and Palestinians
QUESTION: Mr. Nader, you haven't identified yourself in as far as Arab-American in this campaign why some critics consider you the pro-Palestinians. How do you address that?
NADER: Address what? The ethnic issue.
QUESTION: Yes, they consider you as a pro-Palestinian.
NADER: Oh, well, I'm pro-peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians. And if you're pro-peace, you have to recognize that you can't take sides in a negotiated peace process, you have to respect both sides: Israeli security and full justice for the Palestinians.
NADER: As I've said on other occasions, you cannot be a friend of the Israelis without being a friend of the Palestinians in this negotiated conflict, and you can't be friends of the Palestinians without being friends of the Israelis.
And they're as close as they've ever been to a negotiated peace in the last 50 years, and everybody hopes that they will accomplish that negotiated and just peace, and then maybe a few years from now both parties will wonder what took them so long. (Project Vote Smart, November 6, 2000)
Nader on the Peace Process
Third, on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, they're as close together as they've ever been in 50 years on issues such as statehood for the Palestinians, some presence in Jerusalem, some right of return of Palestinian refugees. And yet, in an election year, some politicians in this country do not demonstrate a cool, committed head for peace. They are taking sides. If the United States is going to be an honest broker between the Israelis and Palestinians in this critical time, with the violence flaring, with most of the casualties being Palestinians in Palestinian territory, between Palestinian youths throwing ancient rocks against modern Israeli armorif we're going to be an honest broker, we cannot take sides.
And that means that if we're going to be friends of Israelis, we've got to be friends of Palestinians. And if we're going to be friends of Palestinians, we have to be friends of Israelis. And if Israel's security is maintained, and it's as secure, according to the Jaffe Institute in Israel, as it's ever been in its lifetimeoverwhelming military superiorityif Israel's security is going to be retained, Palestinian justice has to be institutionalized.
That's the basic approach. President Clinton, in some ways in recent years, has tried to do that, but with Al Gore, who has a disquieting animus toward the peoples of the Arab world, and towards Palestinians, is going to be a poor follower of Bill Clinton in the peace process.
You all saw the debates, and you saw Al Gore being asked about this question, and you saw Al Gore say that the Syrian-controlled militias should return the three captured Israeli soldiers, but he somehow couldn't find a few words to the Palestinian children and youngsters who were destroyed by Israeli armaments for protesting, with rocks, inside Palestinian territory. That is a very important signal as to the year-long career of Al Gore and being anti-Arab. And he ought to be brought to account here.
He will never be an honest broker if he takes sides. And the perilous state of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process hangs in the balance. They must be brought back to the peace table so they can negotiate a peace; they have to live together. And after they negotiate a peace, with the peace forces on both sidesin Israel, such as Peace Now, and in the Palestinian territoriesafter they get together and they have a just and secure peace, maybe in a few years both sides will wonder what took them so long. (Project Vote Smart, October 30, 2000)
Nader Immediately Prior to Camp David Summit
WOLF BLITZER, HOST: Welcome back to LATE EDITION. Joining us now from Washington is Ralph Nader.
Good to have you on LATE EDITION. Thanks for joining us.
And I want to begin with the Middle East. You just heard a lengthy discussion on the prospects at Camp David this week. Was this a good idea for President Clinton to convene the Israeli and Palestinian leaders and try to roll the dice and get a peace agreement?
NADER: Oh yes, a very good idea.
BLITZER: If you were the president, you would have done the same?
BLITZER: And what about the possibility that a collapse could so dash hopes that there would be intifada, there could be violence, there could be a war, another war in the Middle East?
NADER: Well, let's not prejudge the outcome of this latest negotiating process. It seems that there is a marker here. President Clinton has said this is really his last opportunity to provide a mediating role, and let's have an optimistic viewpoint on it. (Project Vote Smart, July 9, 2000)
Nader Interview with Pat Buchanan
PAT BUCHANAN: Let me start off with foreign policy — Iraq and the Middle East. You have seen the polls indicating widespread contempt for the United States abroad. Why do they hate us?
NADER: ...we are supporting the Israeli military regime with billions of dollars and ignoring both the Israeli peace movement, which is very substantial, and the Palestinian peace movement. They see a nuclear-armed Israel that could wipe out the Middle East in a weekend if it wanted to.
NADER: Then you would say it is not only Bush who is at fault, but Clinton and Bush and Reagan, all the way back?
NADER: The subservience of our congressional and White House puppets to Israeli military policy has been consistent. Until ’91, any dictator who was anti-Communist was our ally.
BUCHANAN: Why do both sets of puppets [Congress and the White House], support the Sharon/Likud policies in the Middle East rather than the peace movement candidates and leaders in Israel?
NADER: That is a good question because the peace movement is broad indeed. They just put 120,000 people in a square in Tel Aviv. They are composed of former government ministers, existing and former members of the Knesset, former generals, former combat veterans, former heads of internal security, people from all backgrounds. It is not any fringe movement.
The answer to your question is that instead of focusing on how to bring a peaceful settlement, both parties concede their independent judgment to the pro-Israeli lobbies in this country because they perceive them as determining the margin in some state elections and as sources of funding. They don’t appear to agree with Tom Friedman, who wrote that memorable phrase, “Ariel Sharon has Arafat under house arrest in Ramallah and Bush under house arrest in the Oval Office.”
Virtually no member of Congress can say that, and so we come to this paradoxical conclusion that there is far more freedom in Israel to discuss this than there is in the United States, which is providing billions of dollars in economic and military assistance. (The American Conservative, June 21, 2004)
Israel As Puppeteer
The days when the chief Israeli puppeteer comes to the United States and meets with the puppet in the White House and then proceeds to Capitol Hill, where he meets with hundreds of other puppets, should be replaced. (Washington Post, August 13, 2004)
Nader On The Conflict
How nice to hear your views. Years ago, fresh out of law school, I was reading your clear writings against bigotry and discrimination. Your charter has always been to advance civil liberties and free speech in our country by and for all ethnic and religious groups. These days all freedom-loving people have much work to do.
As you know there is far more freedom in the media, in town squares and among citizens, soldiers, elected representatives and academicians in Israel to debate and discuss the Israeli-Palestinian conflict than there is in the United States. Israelis of all backgrounds have made this point.
Do you agree and if so, what is your explanation for such a difference?
About half of the Israeli people over the years have disagreed with the present Israeli government’s policies toward the Palestinian people. Included in this number is the broad and deep Israeli peace movement which mobilized about 120,000 people in a Tel Aviv square recently.
Do you agree with their policies and strategy for a peaceful settlement between Israelis and Palestinians? Or do you agree with the House Resolution 460 in Congress signed by 407 members of the House to support the Prime Minister’s proposal? See attachment re the omission of any reference to a viable Palestinian state – generally considered by both Israelis and Palestinians, including those who have worked out accords together, to be a sine qua non for a settlement of this resolvable conflict – a point supported by over two-thirds of Americans of the Jewish faith. Would such a reasonable resolution ever pass the Congress? For more information on the growing pro-peace movements among the American Jewish Community see: Ester Kaplan, “The Jewish Divide on Israel,” The Nation, June 24, 2004.
Enclosed is the “Courage to Refuse – Combatant’s Letter” signed by hundreds of reserve combat officials and soldiers of the Israeli Defense Forces. It is posted on their web at: www.seruv.org.il/defaulteng.asp . One highlight of their statement needs careful consideration: “We shall not continue to fight beyond the 1967 borders in order to dominate, expel, starve and humiliate an entire people. We hereby declare that we shall continue serving in the Israel Defense Forces in any mission that serves Israel’s defense. The missions of occupation and oppression do not serve this purpose – and we shall take no part in them” (Emphasis in original). Do you agree with these patriotic, front line soldiers’ observation that Israel is dominating, expelling, starving and humiliating an entire people – the Palestinian people – and that in their words “the Territories are not Israel?”
What is your view of Rabbi Lerner’s Tikkun’s call for peace, along with the proposals of Jewish Voice for Peace, the Progressive Jewish Alliance and Americans for Peace Now? As between the present Israeli government’s position on this conflict and the position of these groups, which do you favor and why?
Do you share the views in the open letter signed by 400 rabbis, including leaders of some of the largest congregations in our country, sent this March by Rabbis for Human Rights of North America to Ariel Sharon protesting Israel’s house-demolition policy?
Have you ever disagreed with the Israeli government’s treatment of the Palestinian people in any way, shape or manner in the occupied territories? Do you think that these Semitic peoples have ever suffered from bigotry and devastation by their occupiers in the occupied West Bank, Gaza or inside Israel? If you want a reference here, check the website of the great Israeli human rights group B’T selem.
Since you are a man of many opinions, with a specialty focused on the Semitic peoples, explain the United States’ support over the decades of authoritarian or dictatorial regimes, in the greater Middle East, over their own people which is fomenting resistance by fundamentalists.
These questions have all occurred to you years ago, no doubt. So it would be helpful to receive your views.
As for the metaphors – puppeteer and puppets – the Romans had a phrase for the obvious – res ipsa loquitur. The Israelis have a joke for the obvious – that the United States is the second state of Israel.
How often, if ever, has the United States – either the Congress or the White House-pursued a course of action, since 1956, that contradicted the Israeli government’s position? You do read Ha’aretz, don’t you? You know of the group Rabbis for Justice.
To end the hostilities which have taken so many precious lives of innocent children, women and men – with far more such losses on the Palestinian side – the occupying military power with a massive preponderance of force has a responsibility to take the initiative. In a recent presentation in Chicago, former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak made the point explicitly – Israel should take the initiative itself unilaterally and start disengaging from the West Bank and Gaza and not keep looking for the right Palestinian Authority. Amram Mitzna, the Labor Party's candidate for Prime Minister in the 2003 election, went ever further in showing how peace can be pursued through unilateral withdrawal. Do you concur with these positions?
Citizen groups are in awe of AIPAC’s ditto machine on Capitol Hill as are many members of Congress who, against their private judgment, resign themselves to sign on the dotted line. AIPAC is such an effective demonstration of civic action – which is their right – that Muslim Americans are studying it in order to learn how to advance a more balanced Congressional deliberation in the interests of the American people.
Finally, treat yourself to a recent column on February 5, 2004 in The New York Times, by Thomas Friedman, an author on Middle East affairs, who has been critical of both the Israeli and Palestinian leadership. Mr. Friedman writes:
“Mr. Sharon has the Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat under house arrest in his office in Ramallah, and he’s had George Bush under house arrest in the Oval Office. Mr. Sharon has Mr. Arafat surrounded by tanks, and Mr. Bush surrounded by Jewish and Christian pro-Israel lobbyists, by a vice president, Dick Cheney, who’s ready to do whatever Mr. Sharon dictates, and by political handlers telling the president not to put any pressure on Israel in an election year—all conspiring to make sure the president does nothing.”
These are the words of a double Pulitzer Prize winner.
Do you agree with Mr. Friedman’s characterization? Sounds like a puppeteer-puppet relationship, doesn’t it? Others who are close to this phenomenon have made similar judgments in Israel and in the United States.
Keep after bigotry and once in a while help out the Arab Semites when they are struggling against bigotry, discrimination, profiling and race-based hostility in their beloved adopted country – the U.S.A. This would be in accord with your organization’s inclusive title.
(Letter to the ADL, Nader for President)
Responding To Post Criticism
An Aug. 14 [Washington Post] editorial's juxtaposition of my words, taken from a statement that was rooted in advocacy for an Israeli-Palestinian peace, was shameful and unsavory. Your objection to my description of the need to replace the Washington puppet show with the Washington peace show reinforces the censorious climate against open and free discussion about this conflict. When Israelis joke about the United States being "the second state of Israel," it sounds like they are describing a puppeteer-puppet relationship. Or, would your paper prefer using the descriptor "dominant-subordinate?"
That many other Israeli and U.S. peace advocates with impressive political, business, academic, military and intelligence experience receive no hearing in official Washington is further indication of bias inside both political parties.
When the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) works to obtain a recent 407 to 9 vote for a House resolution supporting the latest Sharon strategy and rejecting any mention of an independent Palestinian state, how would you describe such a surrender of the privately held positions of House members who favor a two-state solution?
Half of the Israeli people and more than two-thirds of Jewish Americans believe the conflict can be settled only by allowing an independent Palestinian state together with a secure Israel.
Why does your paper object to a description of AIPAC as an awesome lobby on Capitol Hill, labeling it "poisonous stuff"? AIPAC has worked hard over the years to enlist the support of both Christians and Jews. Its organizing skills are the envy of the National Rifle Association and other citizen groups. Muslim Americans are trying to learn from its lobbying skills to produce a more balanced congressional debate on Middle Eastern policies. How does acknowledging such an achievement play on age-old stereotypes? The bias may be in your editors' minds.
(Letter to the editor of the Washington Post, August 21, 2004)
“And we talk about how U.S. government should settle the Israeli-Palestinian conflict by connecting with the broad and deep Israeli movement and their Palestinian counterparts, who have long ago developed an accord for a two-state solution to that seemingly interminable conflict.” (Speech on November 2, JTA, November 4, 2004)