For conservative American politician Mike Huckabee, church and state are both crucial. The former Southern Baptist minister who was governor of Arkansas and a Republican presidential candidate is currently leading a group of 200 evangelicals in Israel, here to follow in Jesus' footsteps and to see Jewish sites. Huckabee's religious beliefs guide his political policies, both on his native U.S. and on Israel, which he loves.
In his meetings with Israelis and in analysis he provides for Fox News, Huckabee expresses his concern over Israel's sense of security, especially amid the regional upheaval surrounding it. One could venture to equate Huckabee's political persona to that of Israeli former MK Aryeh Eldad (formerly of the National Union alliance, who lost out on a Knesset seat in the recent elections with his new party, Strong Israel).
When asked about President Barack Obama's coming visit to Israel, Huckabee listed two criteria that would make the trip a success. Firstly, Obama must unequivocally declare, here in Jerusalem, that the U.S. will not accept a nuclear-armed Iran under any circumstances, and will not sit idly by when it comes to developments on this front. According to Huckabee, such a declaration by Obama would be received with discreet jubilation in the Muslim world, even if countries like Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Qatar or the United Arab Emirates would not display their joy publicly. Secondly, according to Huckabee, either on the eve of his visit or during it, Obama must announce that he is pardoning convicted Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard.
The issue of Jewish settlements – the source of the most dissension between the U.S. and Israel – must be solved, according to Huckabee, freely by the Israeli people. Huckabee himself is astonished that, in his view, he is more pro-Israel than some Jewish-American elements.
Huckabee is extremely optimistic about Israel's status in the U.S. and describes the growing amount of American support for it. Incidentally, he is also perplexed by the positions taken by Jewish senators, members of the Armed Services Committee, who support the appointment of Chuck Hagel as next defense secretary.
"If it is proved that he received funds from 'Friends of Hamas,' then this, if proved true, needs to disqualify him from presiding as secretary of defense," Huckabee said.
He is not exasperated by the plight of his party, even after its presidential candidate, Mitt Romney, lost in a landslide to Obama. In his view, 2014 – when elections will be held for the House of Representatives and a third of the Senate – could prove to be "a critical year." Huckabee hopes, believes and wishes that by then everyday Americans will heed, through their empty pockets caused by the taxes they pay, the country's economic crisis and cast their support for the Republicans.
And what will become of the 2016 presidential elections? After all, in 2008, Huckabee failed to win his party's nomination, making it difficult to foresee. Huckabee though predicts a rosy political future for the young new senator from Florida, Marco Rubio, who will have matured by then to emerge as a serious candidate for the presidency. Until then one can take solace in Huckabee's optimistic outlook. Indeed, aside from the experienced Republican's forecasts, as time goes by reality will provide us with the answers.