Arab American voters may disagree on many issues, but the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is one area where almost all Arabs would call for a more balanced U.S. approach. The 68-year-old war is at the center of geopolitical and sectarian feuds in the Middle East.
But most major candidates seem to be competing over who will be more supportive of the Zionist state.
All candidates say they favor the two-state solution. But they have barely addressed the ongoing Zionist colonization of the West Bank — the land on which the Palestinian state would be established.
Foreign policy has seldom been the center of debate on the Democratic side.
Senator Bernie Sanders, the only Jewish candidate, appears to have the most even-handed views of the Palestinian issue.
“Senator Sanders has long supported a two-state solution that recognizes Israel’s right to exist in peace and security and the Palestinians’ right to a homeland in which they control their political and economic future,” reads a statement on his campaign website.
Sanders volunteered for several months at a Kibbutz, a socialist Jewish settlement in Israel, after graduating from University of Chicago in 1964.
The senator “strongly condemned” the widespread killing of Palestinian civilians by Israel as unacceptable.
He is the only presidential hopeful who is calling for ending the siege on Gaza.
“The Israelis must end the blockade of Gaza and cease developing settlements on Palestinian land,” Sanders says on his website.
He also calls on both sides to return to the negotiation table and respect international law.
Sanders has been critical of Israel since 1988, when he described attacks on Palestinians during the first Intifada as “reprehensible.” However, he often reasserts Israel’s right to defend itself and blames Palestinians for the hostilities.
Hillary Clinton, Sanders’ Democratic primary opponent, is more hawkish and blunt in her support of Israel. She, too, supports the two-state solution.
Clinton served as President Obama’s secretary of state for four years, so she has little room to stray away from the president’s foreign policy.
She, like Sanders, supports the nuclear deal with Iran, despite some reservations. Clinton is against the expansion of settlements but seems fond of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
In an article published on forward.com last year, the former secretary of state reaffirmed her commitment to preserving the “unbreakable bond” with Israel. In the piece, Clinton recounted her love story of Israel, bemoaning what she described as Palestinian terrorism that is filling the streets of Jerusalem. She talked up her record of advocating for more aid to Israel since her days in the Senate and pledged to shield Israel even from criticism.
“For me, fighting for Israel isn’t just about policy — it’s a personal commitment to the friendship between our peoples and our vision for peace and security,” Clinton wrote.
On the Republican side, the candidates have accused President Obama of betraying and abandoning Israel. Although it appears that the president has been less supportive of the Zionist state than his predecessors because of his rift with Netanyahu, the fact remains that Obama has increased military aid to Israel without succeeding in pressuring its government to stop settlement expansion.
Leading candidate Donald Trump describes himself as a great friend of Israel. On Tuesday, he said Israel is the victim in the conflict, pledging to come to the defense of Israelis if they are attacked. Last week, the real estate mogul said he would be neutral in his approach to the conflict, but has since distanced himself from that statement.
It is important to note that GOP candidates are vying for the votes of Evangelical Christians who back Israel for theological reasons connected to Biblical prophecies.
Trump has repeatedly stated that Palestinian children are raised to hate Jews. However, the deal-making billionaire has promised to solve the conflict via negotiations.
“It is a very, very tough agreement to make,” Trump said last week. “I was with a very prominent Israeli the other day who says it’s impossible because the other side has been trained from the time they’re children to hate Jewish people. But I will give it one hell of a shot.”
Texas Senator Ted Cruz, who was once booed off the stage by Arab Christians for voicing support of Israel, goes the furthest in making promises to the Zionist state at the expense of Palestinians.
Cruz has promised to move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, recognizing the holy city as the capital of Israel.
“As president, I have no intention of being neutral,” he said last week criticizing Trump. “As president, I will be unapologetically alongside the nation of Israel.”
Florida Senator Marco Rubio also wants to move the embassy to Jerusalem. Rubio has a special page on his campaign website titled “Stand With Israel.”
Rubio argues that the United States has a national security interest in making sure Israel is strong.
“With the Middle East in flames, the best way to stabilize our role in the region is to restore our ties with Israel as the Israeli people once again are under attack,” he wrote in an article published last year.
One can argue that Ohio Governor John Kasich kicked off his presidential campaign when he attended Netanyahu’s much-contested speech to Congress last year.
Kasich has been unquestionably behind Israel. In an interview with forward.com earlier this month, he defended building additional settlements in the West Bank.
“Why are they building more apartments? Because it’s land; it’s security,” he said of Jewish settlements in the West Bank, which the United Nations considers illegal. “I would never, ever, ever jeopardize the security of that country. Never.”
Dr. Ben Carson is also a big fan of Israel. His solution to the conflict? He once infamously suggested “slipping” the Palestinian state into Egypt.