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Home --> Politics --> Israel --> Howard Dean

Howard Dean

Claim:   Vermont governor Howard Dean promised "that if he is elected president, the United States will no longer support Israel the way it has in the past" and "characterized Hamas terrorists as 'soldiers.'"

Status:   Multiple — see below.

Example:   [Collected on the Internet, 2003]

HOWARD DEAN PROMISED THAT IF HE IS ELECTED PRESIDENT, THE UNITED STATES WILL NO LONGER SUPPORT ISRAEL THE WAY IT HAS IN THE PAST UNDER BOTH DEMOCRATIC AND REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTS. IN HIS OWN WORDS HE WILL INSIST THAT THE UNITED STATES BE "EVEN HANDED" . THIS IS A TERM REGULARLY EMPLOYED BY ARAFAT AND HIS COTERIE OF ADHERENTS THAT MEANS TO BE ANTI-ISRAEL!!

GOVERNOR DEAN MADE THESE COMMENTS ON CNN ON SEPTEMBER 10, 2003 ON THE WOLF BLITZER SHOW. HE HAS REPEATED THOSE WORDS SINCE.

IN THIS WERE NOT ENOUGH, GOVERNOR DEAN ON THAT SAME SHOW CHARACTERIZED THE HAMAS TERRORISTS AS "SOLDIERS". FOR THE FIRST TIME SINCE 9/11 WE HAVE SOMEONE RUNNING FOR THE OFFICE OF PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES CALLING TERRORISTS SOLDIERS.

I URGE YOU THAT IF YOU HAVE ANY LOVE FOR AMERICA AND ISRAEL YOU SHOULD NOT AND CANNOT VOTE FOR HOWARD DEAN FOR THE OFFICE OF PRESIDENT.

THIS COMING ELECTION MAY VERY WELL BE ONE OF THE MOST IMPORTANT IN DECADES.

PLEASE PASS THIS MESSAGE ON TO AS MANY OF YOUR FAMILY AND FRIENDS AS YOU CAN.

Origins:   Former Vermont governor Howard Dean, who is seeking the Democratic Party's nomination as its 2004 presidential candidate, touched off controversy in September 2003 while speaking about the Middle East peace process for saying that he didn't "believe stopping the terror has Howard Dean to be a prerequisite for talking," that "it's not our place to take sides" on the issue, that an "enormous number" of Israeli settlements in Palestinian territories would have to be dismantled, and that "the United States needs an even-handed approach in the conflict." Dean was criticized for his remarks, particularly by presidential rival Senator Joseph Lieberman, in part because (as noted above) the term "even-handed," when used in reference to the Israeli-Palestinian situation in the Middle East, often indicates a pro-Palestinian (or anti-Israeli) position. Lieberman responded to Dean's remarks in a speech to the Council on Foreign Relations in New York:
When you start to say, in very loaded terms — particularly when Israelis are under assault by terrorists, not unlike the situation we find ourselves in — that America shouldn't take sides in the Israeli-Palestinian dispute, that's a break in more than half a century of the American foreign policies carried out by presidents of both parties, and it's very harmful.

I bet the Palestinians are more surprised than anyone else when they heard Howard Dean say this.
Dean admitted that he was unaware of the significance of the term "even-handed" and should have employed different terminology, while reasserting that the U.S. does "have a special relationship with Israel" and "would defend Israel if necessary":
I've since learned that that is a very sensitive word to use in certain communities, so perhaps I could have used a different euphemism. But the fact of the matter is, at the negotiating table, we have to have the trust of both sides. When you're at the negotiating table, you don't sit down and blame people when you're negotiating. There's a difference between our policy in Israel — which has always been supportive, including the willingness to defend Israel — and what you do at the negotiating table, which clearly has to have the trust of both sides. We do have a special relationship with Israel. We would defend Israel if necessary. I think that is well-known. However, we are also the only country capable of bringing peace to the Middle East, and when we sit at the negotiating table, we do have to have the trust of both sides or we will never succeed.
Dean explicated that by "even-handed" he meant that the United States should pursue a policy of serving as an "impartial broker" between the two sides in order to reach a peace deal, and asserted that "the American policy is and will continue to be based on Israel's right to exist" and that the U.S. "must condemn all civilian killings, including any terrorist attacks."

Dean drew another round of criticism when he was asked during a CNN interview whether he felt Israel had the right to target and assassinate Hamas leaders, and answered:
I think no one likes to see violence of any kind, [but] there is a war going on in the Middle East, and members of Hamas are soldiers in that war, and therefore it seems to me they are going to be casualties if they are going to make war.
Some listeners interpreted this as a logical response meaning that Israel is at war with Hamas, and therefore as long as Hamas continues suicide bombings against Israelis, Israel has the right to attack Hamas leaders. Other listeners took umbrage at the remark, feeling that Dean was injudiciously equating terrorists with legitimate defense forces.

What policies Howard Dean would likely pursue in the Middle East should he become president is an issue voters will have to determine for themselves. Summaries of his statements and positions regarding Israel (as well as those of other presidential candidates) can be found at JSOURCE (the Jewish Virtual Library) and the web site of the Arab American Institute.

Additional information:
    Dean Defends Middle East Remarks   Dean Defends Middle East Remarks
  (CNN.com)
Last updated:   31 August 2007

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  Sources Sources:
    Kurtz, Howard.   "Why Dean Got Hit on Israel."
    The Washington Post.   10 September 2003.

    Nagourney, Adam and Jodi Wilgoren.   "At Debate, Democrats Clash Over Mideast."
    The New York Times.   10 September 2003   (p. A22).

    CNN.com.   "Dean Defends Middle East Remarks."
    10 September 2003.