John McCain Was a True Friend of Israel
A longtime friend of the State of Israel, McCain visited the country countless times. His first visit came in 1979, when he traveled with Washington Democratic Senator Henry “Scoop” Jackson, who “had the special respect of the Jewish people — the kind of respect accorded to brave and faithful friends,” McCain said in 2008 in front of the annual AIPAC Policy Conference.
McCain took Jackson’s mantle, and never looked back.
“My friends, as the people of Israel know better than most, the safety of free people can never be taken for granted,” McCain said at that conference. “And in a world full of dangers, Israel and the United States must always stand together.”
In July 2017, after McCain was diagnosed with glioblastoma, an aggressive form of brain cancer, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, “Godspeed, @SenJohnMcCain. A hero. A fighter. A friend. Israel is with you.”
“I am deeply saddened by the passing of John McCain, a great American patriot and a great supporter of Israel. I will always treasure the constant friendship he showed to the people of Israel and to me personally,” Netanyahu posted on Twitter on Sunday. “His support for Israel never waivered [sic]. It sprang from his belief in democracy and freedom. The State of Israel salutes John McCain.”
McCain blasted Israel’s treatment under the administration of former President Barack Obama and opposed the Iran nuclear deal.
“There’s a real crisis going on. And that is these negotiations with Iran, which many of us believe are fatally flawed,” McCain told CNN in 2015. Regarding the relationship between Obama and Israel, McCain said that “no other president has had such difficult relations with the state of Israel since it became a country.”
The previous year, McCain stood with Israel during its confrontation with Hamas. “It’s a matter of capabilities, rather than intent, to say the least,” he said, pushing back on the narrative that there were more deaths among Palestinians than Israelis.
McCain said that the lower number of Israeli casualties was because of “Iron Dome, which is an Israeli-US cooperation result, [not because] Hamas, a terrorist organization, hasn’t tried.”
In fact, the senator added, Hamas is “indiscriminately targeting civilians, while Israelis are going so far to warning the people in Gaza of impending strikes. There’s a dramatic difference here.”
Additionally, McCain blasted the Obama administration’s decision to abstain from UN Security Council Resolution 2334 in 2016, which condemned Israeli construction in the West Bank. He said the US decision to abstain on the resolution made America “complicit in this outrageous attack” against Israel.
Despite the frosty relationship between McCain and Donald Trump, the senator applauded the president for his strategy to combat the Iranian threat. However, McCain gave a lukewarm response to Trump relocating the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
“I have long believed that Jerusalem is the true capital of Israel. However, issues surrounding the final and permanent status of Jerusalem must ultimately be resolved by Israelis and Palestinians as part of an internationally supported peace process,” McCain said. “Any future relocation of the US embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem should be part of a comprehensive diplomatic strategy in coordination with regional partners to achieve peace and security between Israelis and Palestinians.”
McCain’s support for Israel encompassed his lifelong friendship with former Connecticut Democratic-turned-Independent Senator Joe Lieberman, whom McCain regretted not picking as his running mate in 2008, according to McCain’s final book. McCain called Lieberman “the finest man I have ever known in my life.”
For his part, Lieberman said in a statement that “America has lost one of the greatest patriots and public servants in our history. And I have lost a dear friend.”
He continued: “I was lucky to know him and work with him, and am comforted now by great memories of our times together and by the words he spoke to me last summer when he was recovering from the brain-cancer surgery: ‘I want to live as long as I can, but if my life ends soon as a result of this cancer, I will have been blessed to have lived a great life. So I am going to go forward with a lot of gratitude and joy every day I can.’”
Condolences from other prominent members of the Jewish community poured in following the news of McCain’s passing.
“I didn’t agree with John McCain [on] every issue, but he was a great and good man who loved his country more than life itself,” Democratic strategist Mark Mellman said. “Every American should be grateful to him. He earned the respect and admiration of all of us.”
“Senator McCain was a statesman and a national treasure — and an avid supporter of Israel, an ally he first visited nearly 40 years ago,” said American Jewish Committee CEO David Harris. “Our nation has lost a brave patriot, a dedicated public servant, a rare voice of independence and authenticity, and a leader of conscience. He lived a life of dignity and honor. He will be sorely missed.”
The Jewish Democratic Council of America wrote in a statement: “We honor Sen. McCain’s remarkable legacy and principled leadership, especially on issues related to national security and foreign policy. During his 60 years of service to our country, Sen. McCain rose above politics and represented his values. He was a true giant in the Senate, and he will be deeply missed. Our prayers are with the Sen. McCain family tonight. May his memory be a blessing.”
“When Israel needed a strong, supportive voice in the Senate, Senator John McCain was always there. When the US armed forces needed a strong, supportive voice in the Senate, Senator John McCain was always there,” ZOA president Mort Klein said on Monday. “Senator John McCain’s passing is a great loss to America, Israel, and the world.”
“He worked tirelessly to support democratic values abroad, strengthen relations with US allies around the world,” the Jewish Policy Center said on Monday. “Always mindful of Israel’s security needs, he supported Israel’s missile defense and other defense programs and believed American security was enhanced by cooperation with the Jewish State.”
“Throughout his congressional career, Senator McCain stood with Israel because throughout his life he stood up for America’s allies and our shared democratic values,” AIPAC said in a press release. “As chairman and longtime member of the Armed Services Committee, Senator McCain consistently worked to ensure that Israel had the critical resources to defend herself. In times of crisis, his eloquent voice could always be counted on to speak out in solidarity with the Jewish state.”
“The pro-Israel community has lost a stalwart friend, and our country has lost one of her bravest heroes,” AIPAC added. “May his patriotic life inspire us all.”
Jackson Richman is the Washington Correspondent for JNS.org.