— by Max Samis
In late February, Senator Al Franken (D-MN) visited Israel for the first time since taking office in 2009. Franken traveled across the country and held meetings with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, multiple Knesset members, influential business leaders, and journalists.
Mordecai Specktor of The American Jewish World spoke with Franken about the peace process, among other topics:
Franken said that Israeli officials, and knowledgeable political observers who he met, said that Israelis — about ’80 percent’ of the citizenry — support the two-state formula for a negotiated peace deal.
‘While things are stalled for now, there does seem to be, with all the complexities and all the problems, some hope there,’ he concluded….
Bringing Hamas into a unified Palestinian political entity is ‘certainly unacceptable,’ said Franken, ‘unless Hamas accepts the basic conditions of Oslo… recognition of Israel as a Jewish state and renunciation of terrorism.’
Following his trip, Franken spoke with Leora Itman of TCJewfolk.com about his visit. Franken stressed the importance of the ‘unbreakable bond between Israel and the United States,’ pointing to gains the U.S. has made as well as the Jewish state. Itman wrote:
Senator Franken discussed with me some of the ways that he believes that the United States benefits from its strong relationship with Israel, including in the area of emergency medicine. ‘We’ve already learned a tremendous amount from Israel. In fact, in Afghanistan and in Iraq we’ve had fewer fatalities from wounds than in any conflict we’ve been in and its in no small part because of what Israel has learned about treating trauma and treating it immediately.’
Franken also told Itman that while they did not go in depth on the issue, he spoke with Netanyahu about the ongoing effort to prevent Iran from gaining a nuclear weapon. Itman wrote:
Although he said he did not spend much time discussing the danger of a nuclear Iran with Benjamin Netanyahu, he did tell the Israeli Prime Minister that he understood the ‘existential’ nature of the situation. ‘You can’t be in Israel without understanding that.’ Senator Franken also told me that with respect to the crisis with respect to Iran, he was seeing a real togetherness among his colleagues and the administration in their concern about the many dangers of Iran having a nuclear weapon. ‘This seems to be something that everyone’s united on. Not necessarily in how to do it. But this is a real, real existential threat.’
‘There is this unbreakable bond between Israel and the United States and we cannot let Iran have a nuclear weapon. We cannot let them because that is unacceptable. This is, there’s a certain point at which you cannot risk them having that capability to annihilate Israel, which is something [Iran] has said they want to do.’