Israeli Watchdog Slams Mike Huckabee for 'Absurd' Settlement Fundraiser

An Israeli settlement watchdog has condemned U.S. Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee's planned fundraiser at an Israeli settlement as "absurd" as the outpost is considered illegitimate by the United States government and illegal under international law.

The pro-Israel politician, known for his controversial positions on foreign policy, is due to arrive in the country Tuesday where he will meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu before travelling to the northern West Bank settlement of Shiloh for a campaign fundraiser in the afternoon. The event is to be hosted by the American owner of the largest duty-free operator in the U.S. Duty Free Americas Inc., Simon Falic, the Jerusalem Post reported.

The U.S. State Department opposes the expansion of Israel's settlements and its official position on the outposts, considered illegal under international law, is that they are illegitimate. In 2013, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said the U.S. has "always considered the settlements to be illegitimate" while U.S. President Barack Obama said in the same year that continued expansion of the outposts did not "advance the cause of peace" between the two parties.

Shiloh, officially founded in 1979 and with a population of approximately 2,950, is an Israeli settlement in the northern West Bank situated 28 miles (45km) north of Jerusalem. The controversial location of the fundraiser was selected by the organiser, Falic, who has previously funded a number of projects in the Shiloh settlement, the Jerusalem Post added.

Israeli anti-settlement watchdog Peace Now slammed Huckabee's trip to the "illegal" settlement, saying it is a clear signal that the former Arkansas governor is against the end of Israel's occupation of the Palestinian territory and the creation of a viable solution for both Palestinians and Israelis.

"It is absurd that someone who aspires to lead the free world holds a fundraiser at the settlement of Shiloh which is illegal according to U.S law and represents oppression," Anat Ben Nun, Peace Now's Director of Development & External Relations, said in a statement to Newsweek. "Shiloh is at the heart of the West Bank and will never be a part of a future agreement between Israelis and Palestinians."

"Having a fundraiser in Shiloh is a clear statement that Mike Huckabee does not support the two state solution but rather would like to see the persistence of the occupation," it added.

The Republican contender defended his decision to travel to Israel while other candidates continued their campaign in the key state of Iowa in an interview with CNN on Sunday.

"I have got a lot of friends there. And a lot of Americans live there," he said. "We're doing some fundraising, but, more importantly, I will also be visiting with a number of officials and discussing the Iranian deal."

Huckabee has caused controversy at home and abroad with his comments on foreign policy. In July, he compared Obama's policy on the Iran deal to the Holocaust, in which six million Jews were murdered by Adolf Hitler's Nazi party.

"This president's foreign policy is the most feckless in American history," he said. "It is so naive that he would trust the Iranians. By doing so, he will take the Israelis and march them to the door of the oven."

Obama retorted that Huckabee's comments would be "ridiculous" if they were not "so sad." "Maybe it's just an effort to push [fellow presidential candidate Donald] Trump out of the headlines," he added.

Huckabee has previously said that he could use soldiers to prevent women having abortions if he became president. At a campaign event in Iowa last month, he was asked if stopping abortion could involve the use of the FBI or troops to which he said: "We'll see if I get to be president. All Americans should be protected."

While construction magnate Trump moves clear of the 2016 presidential field in the latest Fox News poll with 25 percent support for the Republican presidential nomination, Huckabee only ties fifth with Wisconsin governor Scott Walker with 5 percent support, lagging behind retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas and Jeb Bush, former Florida governor and brother of former U.S. President George W. Bush.