Mike Huckabee said he believes the Iran nuclear deal would be bad for Israel. Not just bad – Holocaust-level bad.
In an interview with conservative news outlet Breitbart on Saturday, the GOP presidential hopeful and former governor of Arkansas said the deal will “take the Israelis and march them to the door of the oven.” After facing criticism for the comparison, Mr. Huckabee stood by his remark and posted anti-Israel comments from Iranian officials on Twitter.
“This president’s foreign policy is the most feckless in American history,” Huckabee told Breitbart. “It is so naive that he would trust the Iranians. By doing so, he will take the Israelis and march them to the door of the oven. This is the most idiotic thing, this Iran deal.”
Campaign spokeswoman Alice Stewart, when asked to elaborate on the Holocaust reference, told CNN “the comment speaks for itself.”
President Barack Obama, speaking at a news conference in Ethiopia, dismissed Huckabee's comment as “part of just a general pattern” in Republicans and said the statement “would be considered ridiculous if it weren’t so sad,” USAToday reported.
The comments were more concerning to Democratic National Committee spokeswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who condemned the remarks as “grossly irresponsible” and demanded an apology to the Jewish community in a statement.
"This rhetoric, while commonplace in today's Republican presidential primary, has no place in American politics," she said. "Cavalier analogies to the Holocaust are unacceptable. Mike Huckabee must apologize to the Jewish community and to the American people for this grossly irresponsible statement."
But a vocal part of the Jewish community seems to support Huckabee’s position, if not explicitly his analogy. Israeli ambassador Ron Dermer met with 40 House conservatives Wednesday and urged them to reject the Iran deal, Reuters reported. This week, more than 300 lobbyists from pro-Israel group the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) are expected to appear on Capitol Hill to promote the same message.
“This proposed agreement fails to halt Iran’s nuclear quest,” AIPAC said in a statement. “Instead, it would facilitate rather than prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon and would further entrench and empower the leading state sponsor of terror.”
“We strongly believe that the alternative to this bad deal is a better deal,” the statement continued.
In a sense, Huckabee is simply echoing a line taken by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has made similar comparisons between the Iranian threat and the Holocaust. But in Israel such comparisons are not universally welcome. Tzipi Livni, a former foreign minister who once led the opposition party Kadima, said in 2012 in response to similar Netanyahu comments: “We are not in the ghetto, and there is no place for Holocaust comparisons," the Jerusalem Post reported.
The nuclear deal, which lifts economic sanctions on Iran while curtailing the Middle Eastern power’s nuclear program, is currently in a 60-day congressional review period after months of negotiation between Iran and the P5+1 nations.
While Mr. Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry have hailed the compromise as the best way to avoid more war in the Middle East, Republicans like Huckabee and House Speaker John Boehner (R) of Ohio see it differently, saying the agreement fails to ensure that Iran never acquires a nuclear weapon by failing to completely eliminate the country’s nuclear program.
The deal lifts sanctions without ensuring compliance on Iran’s part, critics have said, and gives up “anytime, anywhere” short-notice inspections of Iran’s nuclear facilities. Huckabee told Breitbart the agreement “gave away” all the United States had.
“It should be rejected by both Democrats and Republicans in Congress and by the American people,” he said. “I read the whole deal. We gave away the whole store. It’s got to be stopped.”