Mitt Romney is in Israel right now, and Hotline points out that he and John McCain are the “first two announced WH ’08 candidates to visit Israel” as “more evidence that the ‘Israel Primary’ is no longer something that just the Democrats compete in.” It’s worth noting, however, that while Rudy Giuliani may not have visited the Holy Land as an announced presidential candidate, he has visited before, and to whatever extent there is an “Israel Primary,” Giuliani wins hands down. In fact, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz has convened a panel that periodically rates the U.S. presidential contenders on the basis of who would be “best for Israel,” and Giuliani is always on top of the list. When Giuliani visited Israel in 1996 to show solidarity in the midst of a wave of terrorist attacks, Giuliani took a position that was actually to the right of the Israeli government led by Shimon Peres, presciently warning to proceed with extreme caution when negotiating with Yasser Arafat. “Don’t go romanticizing,” Giuliani said at the time. “Remember if you are asking something of him you need more proof that it is going to be carried out than if you asked that of someone else.” His words drew harsh criticism from the editorial page of the NY Times, which also lambasted him when he ejected Arafat from a U.N. event at Lincoln Center the year before (a move that outraged the Clinton State Department). Giuliani’s animosity toward Arafat and sympathy with the Israeli position can be traced back at least to his days as prosecutor in NY in the 1980s, when he was involved in investigations of the PLO. More fundamentally, he sees Israel’s struggle against terrorism as being linked to our own. In his speech at the 2004 Republican National Convention, Giuliani gave a brief history of modern terrorism, drawing a line of progression between the attack on Israeli athletes in the 1972 Munich Olympics and Sept. 11, arguing that beginning with its lax response to the Munich attack, “the world had created a response to [terrorism] that allowed it to succeed.” Let me put it this way. To the delight of some and anger of others, President Bush has probably been the most pro-Israel president in U.S. history. But compared to a President Giuliani, Bush would look like Jimmy Carter.
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