Edwards Responds to YDAJC Questions

December 21, 2007 at 6:32 pm | Posted in Announcements + Events | Leave a comment

The United States has a strong bilateral alliance with the state of Israel, and also has played a historic role as a leader in the peace process. This dual role raises a series of questions. How would you characterize the U.S.-Israel alliance, and what role should that friendship play in U.S. Middle East policy? What role should the United States play in the peace process? What should be the role of other international leaders in the Middle East peace process? How could other states in the region help promote peace and fight terrorism? How should the U.S. balance Israeli security in an atmosphere of increasing pressure for concessions to the Palestinians? Should the United States continue its commitment to maintaining Israel’s ability to deter and defend against foreseeable combinations of threats, and maintain its qualitative military edge? What role should the United States play if Israel comes under attack and, in a worst-case-scenario, is unable to defend itself successfully?

The peace process today stands on the brink of either great promise or great peril. Israel and the Palestinian Authority could achieve more in the coming years than they ever have before, but they could also slide back to the past. Nobody can play a greater role in this process than the United States, and we must stand by Israel and prevent the backsliding by the Palestinian Authority that has prevented progress in the past. Progress will require a steady and firm hand in putting the region back on the roadmap to peace authored by the U.S., the European Union, Russia, and the United Nations. Time and time again, the Israelis have demonstrated their desire for peace and a future where two states can live side-by-side in peace. The U.S. must work with moderate Palestinians who renounce violence, recognize Israel, and are committed to past agreements like the Roadmap.

As president, I will see to it that the United States is engaged in the Middle East. The U.S. must do everything it can, through diplomatic, economic, and military aid, to maintain Israel’s qualitative edge and keep Israel strong and safe in a dangerous region so that there is no “worst case” scenario. America must stand by Israel—our ally and partner—to ensure its security, while doing everything in our power to achieve peace and stability in this vital part of the world.

Visions of a final status agreement—including those expressed by Presidents Clinton and Bush—provide for a two-state solution, with the Jewish state of Israel living side-by-side in peace and security with a Palestinian state. These proposed solutions often include adjustments to Israel’s pre-1967 borders to allow for secure and defensible borders, and to take into account major Jewish communities in the West Bank. What, if any, adjustments in the pre-1967 borders would you expect? How do you see the likely final status of Jerusalem? Within the structure of a peace process, what assurances would you expect of Palestinian leaders in fighting terrorism, dismantling the terrorist infrastructure, and ending incitement against Israel? What, if any, actions would you expect of Israel before the Palestinians fulfill these expectations? How do you envision the Palestinian refugee problem will be effectively dealt with in final status agreements? In the shorter term, what are your views on the security fence that Israel is building to protect its citizens against terrorist attacks from the West Bank?

I applaud the past and present leadership of Israel for the steps they have taken in the name of a secure peace for Israel, including the framework for a two-state solution established at Camp David in 2000, which guides the roadmap today As Israel prepares to discuss the final status of East Jerusalem, it is time for the Palestinians and the Arab League as a whole to make similar compromises. This means more than merely denouncing terrorism. It means meaningfully shutting down terrorist elements. The money that comes into the region should be used to support education, health care, and the economy rather than palaces, bombs and hideouts. Iran must stop supporting Hezbollah in Syria and Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza.

Both sides have refugee claims, as many people on both sides have been displaced after nearly a century of conflict. We should work with all parties in the region to seek a viable solution to this issue. I will work with Israel to maintain its status as a vibrant Jewish democracy that celebrates what it has accomplished in its 60-year history.

The Iranian regime continues to push forward in its quest for nuclear arms capability, which would give it cover to pursue even more aggressively the goals of expanding its power and version of Islam throughout the region and beyond. Further, Iran refuses to comply with UN and IAEA demands to suspend its nuclear drive, threatening regional and world peace and security— especially with the defiant Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in the presidency. World leaders, including French President Nicolas Sarkozy, and leaders of both political parties in our country, have declared that a nuclear-armed Iran is unacceptable. Do you agree? What steps would you take to ensure that the world remains protected against the threat of a nuclear Iran? Do you think that it is possible to deter the Iranian regime should it come into the possession of nuclear weapons?

We should take Iran very seriously. I have proposed a new strategy for dealing with Iran that keeps America strong while keeping the peace. It is the right way to force President Ahmadinejad, the Ayatollah Khameini, and the mullahs to understand that any nuclear ambitions and support of terrorism will put the Iran on a fast track to isolation. And it is the right way to restore America’s historic role as a leader of the world community, through a combination of strength, vision, and reengagement with the world. My plan for Iran has five principles:

First and foremost, we need to ensure that the preventive war doctrine goes where it belongs – the trash-heap of history. I believe every candidate owes it to the American people to be very clear about where he or she stands on this question. As commander-in- chief, my national security policy will be based on deterrent strength and always protecting Americans – in short, the use of force as a last resort.

As a part of this strategy, I will ask my National Security Advisor to remove President Bush’s explicit endorsement of a preventive war doctrine from my National Security Strategies. And I will ask our Joint Chiefs of Staff to form military plans in accordance with proven national security strategies that we know can keep us and our allies safe – not discredited and dangerous ideological fancies. This strategy will keep America and our allies safe – while showing the world we are once again a strong country that can always win war, but that prefers peace over war. Most importantly, it will restore our legitimacy in the eyes of the world. Everyone knows we’re powerful. The question is what we use our power for – and whether the rest of the world will once again see us as a force for good, rather than the bully we’ve become under President Bush.

The second principle is to use bolder and more targeted economic sanctions to force Iran’s leaders to understand that they cannot continue to buck the will of the international community without destroying their ability to be the modern, advanced nation they so desperately want to become. We should pursue smarter sanctions that will force Iran’s leaders to realize that any future pursuit of nuclear weapons will shut down their economy, further isolate them from the world community, and make them a rogue nation for generations. We must fully enforce the Iran Sanctions Act, a law Congress passed to let the president punish companies who do business with Iran’s extremist regime. We must work multilaterally – most importantly, with our Western European allies – to strengthen economic sanctions on Iran. And we should shut down Iranian access to the American financial system. The Bush Administration recently banned two Iranian banks from accessing our system. However, Iranians can still do business through third parties and through other banks. This must stop.

The third principle of my plan is to use “carrots” – diplomatic measures to convince Iran to abandon its nuclear ambitions and re-join the world community. We should draw Iran into compliance through incentives including increased refinery capacity and a regional fuel bank that Iran could use for peaceful purposes. And we need to use the possibility of bringing Iran into multilateral economic organizations, including the WTO, as a carrot for change.

The fourth principle of my policy is to reengage with Iran. We should begin building a new course of diplomatic relations with Iran by expanding low-level talks between government officials on both sides in a neutral country. The goal of these talks should be to find a path out of the log-jam created by the Bush Administration and, ultimately, to achieve full diplomatic relations between the two countries.

But we must always negotiate from a position of strength. Unlike President Bush, I believe we do need to meet with Iran. But any higher-level meeting should only happen if we verify that the meetings would promote America’s national security interests and would not be used for propaganda or other improper purposes.

And the fifth and final principle is to reengage with other major nations on the challenge of Iran. We must work with China and Russia on the problem of Iran’s nuclear ambitions. Both nations have economic relationships with Iran on trade and energy. But both nations also have a strong interest in stability in the Middle East. And neither nation wants the nuclear club to expand. In the first year of my administration, I will convene a conference with my Secretary of State and representatives from the “E.U. 3” – Great Britain, France, and Germany – Russia, China and Iran, to discuss a way out of the stalemate of the Bush Administration.

The situation in the Darfur region of Western Sudan has markedly deteriorated since President Bush labeled it a genocide a few short years ago. Despite international action to authorize a hybrid United Nations-African Union force, the crisis continues, with at least 200,000 dead and another 2.5 million displaced from their homes. If elected, what steps would you take to help end this pressing humanitarian crisis? What role should the United States play in ensuring that peacekeeping troops are able to enter the country? What steps should the United States take to lead the international community towards taking swift action to pressure Sudan?

At the dawn of a new century and on the brink of a new presidency, the United States needs to reclaim the moral high ground that defined our foreign policy for much of the last century. To lead the world in addressing the challenges of our century, America must restore its moral authority. Restoring our moral authority means leading by example, and making clear that hard challenges don’t frighten us, but call us to action.

Few areas deserve the United States’ moral leadership more urgently than Sudan. I have called for urgent, decisive action by the United States government on Sudan, the site of the most critical humanitarian crises in the world today. I believe we must act on this crisis together – and we must act now.

The African Union peacekeeping troops stationed in Darfur have acted bravely in a difficult situation. But these troops have been unable to protect civilians or enforce a 2004 cease-fire, and security has deteriorated dramatically. I believe President Bush should convene an emergency meeting of NATO’s leadership to provide assistance to a UN deployment of 3,000 troops, backed by logistical, operational, and financial support. NATO must also establish a no-fly zone over the region to cut off supplies to the brutal Janjaweed militias and end the Sudanese government’s bombing of civilians in Darfur. NATO member states should also impose a new round of multilateral sanctions on the Sudanese government and freeze the foreign assets of individuals complicit in the genocide.

I also believe that the United States must make a decisive new commitment to employ the extraordinary assets of the U.S. military — our airlift capabilities, logistical support, and intelligence systems — to assist UN and African Union peacekeeping efforts in Darfur. And we must continue to pressure other countries with influence in the region, such as China, to meet their own responsibilities to help end this conflict.

At the urging of President Bush, the United States Senate recently considered comprehensive immigration reform. While the Senate’s attempt at reform ultimately failed, it highlighted the severe problems plaguing our nation’s immigration system, particularly the 10-12 million undocumented immigrants currently living in the United States. If elected, how would you determine the fate of these 10-12 million people? What types of changes would you support to U.S. immigration policy on the whole? What safeguards would you take to ensure that those fleeing persecution will continue to be granted safe haven within our nation’s borders?

Immigration is central to the story of America, but today our immigration system needs a fundamental overhaul. Our security is threatened by borders we cannot control. Our economy is harmed by an underground economy with a large and unprotected labor force. And our values are violated when over 12 million people live in the shadows of our society, vulnerable to abuse and fearful of deportation.

The first step in overhauling the immigration system is to secure our borders and stop illegal trafficking. We need to increase the number of border patrol agents and invest in surveillance technology to police the borders. We also need to crack down on employers that employ undocumented immigrants and, in some cases, abuse their workers.

It is unrealistic to think that we can deport more than 12 million people. People who are already here should have the opportunity to earn American citizenship if they do not have a criminal record, pay a fine in recognition that they came here illegally, and learn English–the surest path to success in this country.

What role should the government play in addressing poverty and hunger?  Should social welfare programs targeting the poor be expanded, kept about the same, or shifted to private forms of assistance?

— Senator Edwards did not respond to our question on poverty and hunger —

What restrictions, if any, should be placed on the ability to have an abortion?  Should laws be put in place requiring parental notification when minors request an abortion?

— Senator Edwards did not respond to our question about reproductive choice —

Ensuring that the government does not establish a religion is a constitutionally guaranteed right. At the same time, the constitution also protects the rights of individuals to practice their religion free from state influence or coercion. How do you think the government can simultaneously protect these two fundamental rights? Do you support federal money being allocated to religious institutions for provision of social services or to parochial schools? What restrictions, if any, would you put on these funds, whether provided by grants or vouchers? On another religious liberty matter, do you support legislation directed at strengthening the obligation of employers to provide a reasonable accommodation of an employee’s religious practice?

In the last few years, I have been all over the country going to community action centers, faith-based local organizations that are providing help to the poor because of my work on the issue of poverty. In many places, there would be no support for the poor if there were no faith-based groups.

In a manner consistent with the First Amendment, faith-based charities should be able to participate in delivering services. But they should also meet the same anti-discrimination standards as other charities receiving government support.

Honesty requires me to be direct and say that I do not support vouchers for private schools. Vouchers often use tax dollars to fund religious activities and training and drain our public schools of much-needed funds.

Title I provides for the equitable participation of parochial school students in federal funding for the education of low-income students. Funds are available for non-religious educational products and services like math text books, lab equipment, and transportation services. As president, I would invest more in this type of educational support for needy parochial school children. Government can support the choice of working parents to place their children in parochial schools. The line between state and religion must be strongly defended, but freedom of religion doesn’t mean freedom from religion. Children who attend religious institutions deserve access to the secular resources necessary to succeed in our 21st century economy.

I strongly support protecting religious freedom in the workplace, including respect for religious holidays and wearing religious clothing. I will also strengthen enforcement at the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Senator Edwards also provided YDAJC with positions on additional other issues that had not been in the questionnaire.  Those interested in obtaining the material provided on these issues should contact YDAJC Chair Josh Pasek at chair@jewishcaucus.org.

Additional Issues:

Homeland Security/Terrorism

Torture and Treatment of Detainees


National Service


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