JERUSALEM – Geraldo Rivera, an outspoken Fox News host, award-winning reporter and controversial war-zone correspondent, now reveals he almost added Knesset candidate to his long list of accomplishments, but ultimately decided against changing careers to enter Israeli politics.
"I wanted to be in the Knesset to verbalize without fear the moderate ideology held by the majority of Israelis, especially the younger generation," Rivera told WND. "But the Knesset is already too prone to diversion. Can you imagine me going nose to nose with my fellow legislators from some of the narrowly based parties?"
Born in Brooklyn to a Jewish mother and a Catholic, Puerto Rican father, the "At Large with Geraldo Rivera" host says he was raised "mostly Jewish" and even had a bar mitzvah.
Rivera has visited the Jewish state numerous times since the 1973 Yom Kippur War. Echoing comments he made to Philadelphia Inquirer columnist Gail Shister, he told WND he considered relocating to Israel several years ago to advance his views on regional peace by becoming a citizen and running for a Knesset seat. But he says he had a change of heart after contemplating the move.
"I'm too secular, short-tempered and impatient to go far in the Israeli parliament. Still, I am at home in Israel, even if my politics may not be in sync," he said.
And Rivera, not exactly known for keeping his views to himself, spelled out his plan for helping to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
With Hamas currently forming a new Palestinian Authority government following the terror group's election victory last month, Israel and the United States have been struggling to formulate an approach that would financially and diplomatically isolate the Hamas-led PA. Members of Congress recently introduced a bill demanding an immediate halt in all U.S. assistance to the new Palestinian government. Israel is refusing to transfer tax revenue to the PA.
But Rivera recommends the Jewish state give Hamas – whose charter calls for the destruction of Israel "by killing and assaulting" – a chance at proving themselves.
Rivera got emotional during aftermath coverage of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans
"Israel ignores Hamas at peril to the fragile chance for peace. It should for now do nothing different vis-?-vis the Palestinian Authority. Let Hamas form its government. If it chooses the route to peace, applaud and encourage its transformation. If it continues and/or returns to terror, then take the draconian measures suggested, isolation and so forth. Give Hamas 90 days to pick a lane, then react," Rivera said.
Regarding the "Palestinian issue" Rivera advocates an Israeli withdrawal from most of the West Bank and a Palestinian capital that includes parts of Jerusalem and access to the Temple Mount.
"I would essentially resurrect the Barak-Clinton plan. The new Israeli borders would be more or less the pre-1967 line, secured by an adjusted wall, with the settlements closest to Jerusalem remaining part of Israel and outlying settlements closed," Rivera said.
In such a deal, Rivera said border adjustments could be negotiated to allow for Israel to retain key sections of eastern Jerusalem.
"Perhaps areas of Israel where current large Palestinian populations and demographic realities exist could be exchanged for Israeli expansion into the West Bank to include most of East Jerusalem, with a sliver of the city remaining for the Palestinian capital, which would include access to the Dome of the Rock."
Under the Rivera peace plan, Israel would maintain a presence at all Palestinian international borders and air and sea ports for a treaty period measured in decades. Israel would maintain the right to pursue cross-border incursions if it obtains information indicating pending terror attacks.
Israeli settlers displaced from any West Bank withdrawal would be compensated by an international fund, and displaced Palestinians, including those living in refugee camps, could be compensated by the same fund upon proof of former residence, Rivera said.
Rivera stressed a plan to get Israel out of most of the West Bank must be implemented soon. He called Israel's military presence in the area "bull" that "dehumanizes" the Palestinians.
Regarding his contemplated Knesset run, Rivera said if elected he would have worked to change the often disorienting madness of the Israeli parliament.
"I say expose and isolate the Knesset radicals. Applaud and support the realists who don't play to the mob fringe. Extol Jewish virtue, modern Zionism and the Israeli Defense Forces. Reject racial or religious hate. Embrace moderate Islam. Highlight our shared history [with the Arabs], not to mention DNA. And hold out a hand of peace to our 'cousins.'"
Rivera said as a Knesset member he would probably not have sought to run for Israeli prime minister.
"I would be honored to serve Israel in any capacity, but would not presume to lead the country, which requires courage, experience and wisdom on a biblical scale that I don't have. Also, the prime minister should be an IDF combat veteran. They have a better understanding than mere politicians throughout Israel and the Diaspora – especially the U.S. – of the emotional cost of occupation. They don't demonize the enemy, have demonstrated their patriotism with their bodies, and have the guts to hit hard at anyone who hits at Israel."
Asked which candidate he supports in the Israeli elections scheduled for later this month, Rivera responded, "A friend, I've known [former Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu forever, and believe his most radical positions are opportunistic politics and not representative of his truly visionary long-term thinking.
"But [Ehud] Olmert is making a surprisingly effective interim prime minister and deserves consideration, and, for what it's worth, I like [Labor leader Amir] Peretz's politics best. Really, though, where's Golda Meir when we need her?"
Still, Israelis shouldn't count out the TV host just yet. Rivera says he might one day change his mind again and seek public office here.
"Perhaps I could have something within the foreign ministry. What about tourism? I'd work to make it hip again to spend time in our fabled and fabulous land. But with a Puerto Rican father and a Jewish mother, I would probably be better suited as mayor of New York."
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