JERUSALEM (JTA) — Former U.S. presidential candidate Mike Huckabee called on President Obama to halt dialogue with Hamas, which is believed to be responsible for the abduction of three Israeli teens.
Huckabee, the ex-Republican governor of Arkansas, arrived in Israel on Sunday for a weeklong visit to focus attention on the kidnappings. He has visited Israel more than 40 times.
“Hamas is a terrorist organization, so how does the United States approve or work with a government made up by a terrorist organization?” he asked. “We certainly should not fund them. Our president should have made sure that they stop receiving taxpayer’s money, and it does not make sense why there is not worldwide condemnation.”
The United States has said it will work with the Palestinian unity government made up of Hamas and the Fatah party of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
Huckabee at the home of Naftali Frenkel, the kidnapped teen who is a dual American-Israeli citizen, called on Obama to make a strong public statement on the issue.
“Because Naftali Frenkel is an American citizen, we have a constitutional duty to make sure the whole world understands that this takes the situation to a whole new level for the United States,” he said.
Huckabee told Frenkel’s parents, Rachel and Avi, in a private meeting that he would work to keep the kidnapping in the minds of Americans, according to a statement.
“Anything and everything that Israel and the rest of the world can do to get them back they should do, and God help those people if they touch a hair on these boys’ heads,” he said.
Huckabee also visited Israeli lawmakers during a Knesset session as well as the controversial SodaStream factory in the West Bank, which employs Israelis and Palestinians and has been the subject of a boycott campaign.
Speaking with SodaStream’s Palestinian workers, Huckabee stressed that the Maale Adumim factory should be credited as “a model for what is possible.”
Huckabee told reporters in Israel that he has not decided whether he will make a presidential run in the 2016 elections.