1. ROBERT FREEDMAN: Well, it’s clear that this was a horrendous act. And terrorism, the deliberate killing of civilians, whether it’s by ISIS terrorists or by Palestinians knifing civilians in Jerusalem, has to be deplored and has to be dealt with. The irony of this, coming to the next part of our discussion, is that I’m sure Mr. Trump will seize upon this to demonstrate tougher action is needed against Muslim immigrants to the United States and against those who want to be refugees coming to the United States. And that, too, is deplorable.
2. ROBERT FREEDMAN: Sure. There were six issues, which cut across all the candidates: the deal with Iran; the question of moving the American Embassy to Jerusalem; the issue of Palestinian terrorism; the issue of supporting Israeli security; relations with Israel, and especially Netanyahu; and the U.N. Security Council resolution, if it takes place, on an Arab-Israeli peace agreement. Now, if you look at the main candidates—and here I’m looking not only at the speeches, but also of the two-hour discussion on CNN following the speeches—I think you find the following.
On the Iran deal, Clinton, keep the deal, but mistrust and verify it; Trump, abolish it, negotiate a new deal; Kasich, suspend it because of the missile tests; Cruz, flat-out abolish it; and Sanders, keep it.
On moving the embassy to Jerusalem, Clinton said no, because of the negative effect on the Middle East; Trump, Kasich and Cruz—well, Trump said yes, Kasich said he would study it, Cruz said yes; and Sanders said no.
On Palestinian terrorism and incitement, that it’s so-called the culture of martyrdom and death taught in Palestinian schools, everybody was critical. Clinton, Trump, Kasich and Cruz denounced it. Sanders said, “But you have to look at,” as we heard on the clip, “the very negative situation in Gaza economically.”
On the question of supporting Israeli security, again, Clinton, Trump, Kasich and Cruz all supported it strongly. Sanders was a bit weaker on this.
On relations with Netanyahu and Israel, Clinton, again, Trump, Kasich and Cruz all moved to say they want to improve it. But Sanders, in his CNN talk, said, “Well, you have to look at Netanyahu, who’s a lot of the cause of the problems.”
On settlements, Clinton criticized it. Sanders strongly criticized it. Trump, Kasich and Cruz didn’t discuss it at all.
And finally, on the U.N. Security Council resolution on the Arab-Israeli conflict, assuming the French initiative comes through, Clinton said she would veto, Trump said he would veto, Kasich said he would veto, Cruz said he would veto, and Sanders didn’t discuss it but said he would work very hard for a Palestinian-Israeli peace agreement.
So, I mean, those are six or seven issues where they really differed. What I took away from this, interestingly enough, was that Kasich and Clinton were actually fairly close on a lot of the issues. And I wouldn’t say so much that Clinton was the right—to the right of Trump; I would say, rather, that Trump was to the left of Cruz, and Kasich was to the left of both of the others. Now, how this works out in reality following the election, of course—it’s one thing to make promises before the election, it’s another thing to make promises and carry them out afterwards.
And very quickly, in response to Yousef, killing civilians deliberately for political reasons is terrorism whether it takes place in Jerusalem or whether it takes place in Brussels. Claiming that this is a reaction, it’s OK for a young lady or a young man to go and kill Israeli civilians because this is, you know, protesting the occupation, is simply wrong. And this is why the main candidates all denounced it—and denounced it loudly.
3. ROBERT FREEDMAN: Well, I agree, actually, with Yousef on one issue, and that is the problem caused by the settlements. I happen to be—this program is called Democracy Now! I happen to be a member of an organization called Peace Now, which has been deploring the settlements from the beginning, and I deplore them, as well, whether it’s Ariel, which is sort of like a bone in the mouth of any future Palestinian state, which—since I’m a supporter of the two-state solution, strongly, as, by the way, is Mrs. Clinton, which she also said in her presentation, I share the problem of the settlement expansion.
Yet Yousef tends to overlook a few issues of history. Palestinians were offered a state by the U.N. in 1947, rejected it. Olmert in 1968 came up with a plan, really a very good two-state solution, including sharing Jerusalem; Palestinians rejected it—in 2008. And then, this most recent effort by the United States during a Kerry—a nine-month effort, the Palestinians and Mr. Abbas didn’t even respond to the American plan. So, one can talk about occupation and occupation, but unless and until the Palestinians are willing to come out with an agreement on a two-state solution, number one—
4. ROBERT FREEDMAN: OK, there are two related issues here. First of all, I’ve got to respond to Yousef, because his view of history obviously does not coincide with mine. But in one area where he seems to be unaware of what’s going on, there are regular protests in Israel against the settlements, led by Shalom Achshav, or Peace Now. There is attempts—lobbying of the Knesset. Unfortunately for the future of a two-state solution, the Peace Now people are not in the majority in the Israeli Parliament, but that’s a democracy. They continue to advocate. They continue to oppose the settlements. That’s number one.
Number two, this $3 billion-plus a year in military aid—perhaps Yousef hasn’t been in Israel or in Gaza when rockets continue to fly from Gaza into Israel, killing Israeli civilians. Now, Israel pulled out of Gaza in 2005, 2006, under Ariel Sharon. And what has moved the Israeli body politic to the right is the fact that instead of peace, Israel got rocketed in return for pulling out of Gaza. Now, that should be noted. And hence, the United States, in supplying aid for Iron Dome, now David’s Sling, Arrow 3, which would be used against the threat from Iran, which has called for the destruction of Israel, most recently inscribed in Farsi on the rockets—and this was pointed out by a number of the speakers at AIPAC yesterday. But this is the first thing. Second thing, BDS—
5. ROBERT FREEDMAN: Let me answer—let me answer the BDS—
6. ROBERT FREEDMAN: —because BDS is—it’s very, very important. The people who support BDS seem to be ignorant of other problems in the Middle East. More than a quarter-million people have died in Syria. Forty thousand-plus are dying at—in Kurds in Turkey. But not only that, countries like China support Syria, as well as attacking their own Muslim populations. Russia has slaughtered people in Chechnya. But nobody is talking about stopping educational ties with China, Chinese universities, or with Russian universities or with Turkish universities. The concentration seems to be, “Well, Israel is bad; we’ve got to stop educational ties with Israel.” Now, folks, there’s a lot of crying about Islamophobia that one hears every day. But singling out Israel, when there are so many worse things happening in the world, I think, is in fact anti-Semitism, and there’s no other way of looking at it.