ERWIN HAAS: I’ve got two areas of concern. One is, our relationship with Israel. Would you describe exactly what your feelings are about how we should regard Israel? How does it relate to (unclear)?
GARY JOHNSON: Well, I think Israel has been and will remain an important ally. I have met with Netanyahu. I’ve met with Shimon Perez. I’ve met with Ariel Sharon. I think it’s a mistake for us to believe we’re going to be able to dictate what Israel is or isn’t going to do. If I were President of the United States right now, when it comes to Iran, based on what I know about Iran, which is, it’s not a military threat, I would not want Israel attacking Iran.
But if in fact Iran does become a military threat, and we should be vigilant toward that, is it better to have Israel address this or us? And again, if it’s, if it’s not a military threat, I would be using all the power that I have as President of the United States to not see Israel attack Iran.
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HAAS: So you would encourage Israel to stay out of initiating a war on U.S’ side?
JOHNSON: Based on what I know now. And, uh, again, I don’t think anyone wants to elect a president that’s not going to be, uh, vigilant and understanding of what circumstances are. If, if I found that circumstances change, I would be very transparent about what that information was, and why I deemed that as a military threat.
HAAS: Now supposing that Israel does start aggression against Iran, what do you think you would end up doing, knowing what we know right now?
JOHNSON: Well, that’s my point, is that, knowing what I know, based on what I know right now, there is not a military threat from Iran. That Iran is an unintended consequence of us taking out Iraq. Their only concern was waking up every morning to what Saddam Hussein or Iraq was gonna do to them. We take them out, that’s why we’re dealing with this right now. I think it’s a similar situation to Iraq, and I opposed going into Iraq in 2002. We don’t need to do this. I don’t think there are weapons of mass destruction. If there are, I think we have the military surveillance capability to see it. And if it happens, we can go on and deal with it. I thought that if we went in to Iraq, we’re gonna find ourselves in a civil war, to which there would be no end.
Afghanistan, I thought was initially warranted. After having been in Afghanistan for six months, we wiped out Al-Qaeda. Well, that was ten, that was eleven years ago now. We need to get out of Afghanistan now.
HAAS: So I think, your, if, if I can summarize what you’re saying about Israel, is that we have some interest there, but they’re not really friends of ours.
JOHNSON: Israel’s not friends of ours? I think Israel is a friend. Yes.
HAAS: So we have to support these guys in the sense of-
JOHNSON: Well, I think that we’ve been responsible for the creation of Israel if you go back to the UN and Harry Truman and I think, I think we’ve put this in place.
HAAS: And so, what should be our (unclear) role towards Israel?
JOHNSON: Well, they are an ally, they will remain an ally, and uh, that they, in that context, um, that’s what I firmly believe.
HAAS: But you would not necessarily follow them into some war they initiated. But if, if-
JOHNSON: No. Nor would I any ally, that ally would initiate, but I think allies are what they are for reason that we do have allies, and we do share common interest. And uh, but no, never following blindly what an ally may, may or may not do.
GARY JOHNSON: Text question. What’s your policy towards Israel, such as their opinion on the handling the question of Palestinian statehood? Clark, did you wanna add?
CLARK COOPER: It is very timely, considering two-state solution that uh, previous administrations have articulate, and there’s been some back and forth, uh, amongst your colleagues in the Republican primary as to how address our bilateral relationship with Israel, as well as, uh, dealing with the two-state solution with Palestinians. So I think that’s a very timely question considering we just had the, uh, Republican Jewish Conference here in Washington earlier this week.
JOHNSON: I’ve been to Israel. I’ve been to Israel, I’ve met with Netanyahu, I’ve met with Shimon Peres, I’ve met with Ariel Sharon. I think that it’s a real mistake for us to believe that we have solutions, uh, to issues that really Israel, only Israel have, um, should be and will be dealing with. Israel is an ally, will remain an ally, and um, I think it’s a mistake to uh, for us to think we’re going to dictate to them actions when it comes to Palestinian statehood. It’s just a mistake on our part. It’s not reality. They’re the ones who have to deal with this, and they will.
MAX BLUMENTHAL: The Tea Party is for ending foreign aid to every country except for Israel. Would you end aid to Israel?
GARY JOHNSON: Yes, we’d have to include - and I’ve been to Israel. I’ve been to Israel, and I met with Netanyahu, and the takeaway - what I came away from it: Israel doesn’t want anything from us. Other than not for us to intervene and tell them what they should or shouldn’t do, them understanding that better than anyone else.
BLUMENTHAL: Why has Netanyahu visited more than any foreign leader of any leader in the last 100 years?
JOHNSON: Well in the case of me visiting, there wouldn’t... My trip to Israel just enlightened me on what a lot of these issues are. And my takeaway was that we shouldn’t be dictating to Israel what or what not to do. They best understand the issues and they’re going to make these decisions for themselves.
BLUMENTHAL: So we shouldn’t be telling them “Stop the occupation”?
JOHNSON: Right. Let them deal with that issue. If I were president of the United States, I would be urging Israel to not bomb Iran.
BLUMENTHAL: But what about the Palestinians and Palestine?
JOHNSON: All right, you understand it as well as anyone. I mean, enlighten me. What would your solution be?
BLUMENTHAL: I support the Palestinian-led boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) which encourages Israel to abide by three conditions of international law, which they have refused to abide by: Resolution 194 allowing the Palestinians the right of return; ending the occupation; and providing equal rights for Palestinians — which they have refused to abide by.
JOHNSON: It’s hard to understand. I could not - I could not converse on that issue intelligently.
BLUMENTHAL: Why do you think Palestine was left out of last night’s debate?
JOHNSON: I think that, uh, probably has to do with, uh...I can’t speak for it other than...it’s not in either party’s interests to talk about it?