Huckabee Israel Trip Stirs Controversy

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JERUSALEM - Former governor and Republican presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee came to Israel for a three-day visit and found himself at the center of a political storm.

Huckabee's tour stirred up reactions from both sides of Israel's political spectrum.   

Huckabee's visit provoked the most controversy when he visited the Shepherd's Hotel in Jerusalem.  The hotel has been in the middle of a diplomatic crisis between the U.S. and Israel. 

"I am here to let people know that Governor Huckabee is not welcome.  To let him know that the settlements are certainly not going to enhance the chance of peace and that it's important for America to realize that.  Peace will not come through provocation and whether that's through expansion or natural growth," said Sorel Rosenberg of Peace Now.

"We support him by supporting us and by supporting the Israeli government by letting the Israeli and Jewish people to live here by right," said Yotam of the student organization Im Tirtzu. 

Eye of the Storm 

The hotel Huckabee visited lies at the heart of a controversy between Israel and the U.S.  It sits in east Jerusalem and what some want to be the future capitol of a Palestinian state.  A Jewish developer bought the land and obtained permission to build apartments. 

But the Obama administration called on Israel to suspend the construction as part of its attempt to stop all Jewish settlements in east Jerusalem and the West Bank, a position many Israelis find objectionable.    

"Jerusalem is the line in the sand for the Jewish State," said former Israeli ambassador Yoram Ettinger. "If Jews are not allowed to build in Jerusalem then what are we doing in this area. This is our heart and nobody, absolutely nobody has the moral or strategic right to question our right to build anywhere at any time in Jerusalem."   

Huckabee challenged,  "How would the government of the United States feel if (Israeli) Prime Minister (Benjamin) Netanyahu began to dictate which people could live in the Bronx, which ones could live in Manhattan, which ones could live in Queens and so you know we only allow certain people to live in these neighborhoods. How would that go over? It wouldn't go over very well."

The hotel was once owned by the former Mufti of Jerusalem Haj Amin al-Husseni. Husseni worked with Hitler during World War II to exterminate the Jews of Europe and prevent their immigration to Israel. 

"Jewish construction on this ground doesn't just celebrate the right of Jews in Jerusalem - the heart of the Jewish people - but also it's a late achievement or late symbol of victory over the Nazis," Ettinger said. 

Message to Obama

Huckabee's visit to the Shepherd's Hotel not only stirred passions in Jerusalem but also sent a message to the Obama administration.   

Lone Star Communications' Charley Levine said, "I might say and I do not represent the Governor it's pretty clear this might be a first volley in the next Presidential elections."

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