President-elect Donald Trump reportedly plans to appoint Republican primary rival Mike Huckabee as the next ambassador to Israel.
The Jerusalem Post reported several members of Trump’s transition team confirmed the former Arkansas governor and minister will assume the post once the administration is installed in January.
Earlier this week, Huckabee posted a Conservative Tribune story on Facebook, falsely accusing liberal Jews of defacing a church at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, in reaction to Trump’s election. The incident actually took place in March. Neither of the two men charged in the incident was Jewish. Huckabee later apologized.
U.S.-Israel relations have been strained. U.S. President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu never had a close relationship, and it was frayed further when Netanyahu accepted an invitation from then-House Speaker John Boehner to address Congress in 2015 about the Iran nuclear deal without checking with the White House first. Israel strongly opposed it. Netanyahu also made clear during the 2012 presidential race that he favored Republican Mitt Romney.
During this year’s campaign, Trump pledged to move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, Israel’s capital. Previous administrations have been reluctant to make the move, despite congressional approval, because Arab nations, many of which still refuse to recognize Israel’s right to exist, oppose it.
Huckabee is a strong supporter of Israel. Two weeks ago he said on his website that U.N. stands for “utterly nuts” in the wake of Unesco’s resolution claiming Jews have no connection to Jerusalem or the Temple Mount.
“We rightly excoriate Holocaust deniers, so why do we offer money and support to an organization that is hardly any less anti-Semitic in its absurd denial of the Jewish people’s historic and religious heritage?” Huckabee asked.
“It’s time for America once again to stand up forcefully beside our staunch ally, Israel. The last time we were silent in the face of attempts to erase Jews from the pages of history, it didn’t turn out well.”
Huckabee in July chastised the administration for giving $465,000 to a “leftist political group that smeared and interfered in the election of another nation’s leader [Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel — a staunch ally of America but a thorn in the side of Barack Obama for pointing out the dangerous folly of his Iran nuclear policy], then attempted to hide it by purging emails that are supposed to be public record.”
In June, Huckabee voiced support on Israeli radio for Trump’s proposed ban on Muslims entering the United States, likening it to Israel’s approach.
Huckabee was born Aug. 24, 1955, in Hope, Arkansas, to Dorsey Wiles Huckabee and his wife Mae. His father was a fireman and mechanic and his mother worked as a gas company clerk. He got his first job at the age of 14 at a radio station where he read the news and weather.
At the age of 21, Huckabee worked for televangelist James Robison and later served as pastor at Immanuel Baptist Church in Pine Bluff. He started 24-hour television stations in Pine Bluff and Texarkana, producing documentaries and hosting a program called “Positive Alternatives.”
He became lieutenant governor of Arkansas in 1993. He assumed the governor’s office in 1996 when Gov. Jim Guy Tucker was convicted of fraud and was elected to a full term in 1998, and was re-elected in 2002.
Huckabee ran for the Republican presidential nomination in 2008 and in 2016, dropping out of both races after failing to gain any traction in the primaries.
He currently lives in Florida and is considered a possible candidate for governor in 2018.
Huckabee married Janet McCain in 1974. They have two sons and a daughter.