(March 4, 2019 / JNS) John Hickenlooper, the former governor of Colorado, declared his candidacy for the Democratic nomination for president in 2020 on Monday.
Despite having led a state with a relatively small Jewish community, Hickenlooper has a wide-ranging relationship with the Jewish state, including two trips to Israel as the leader of the Centennial State between 2011 and 2019.
During his first 100 days in office, Hickenlooper, 67, organized a meeting between 65 Israeli and Colorado water officials to share ideas surrounding water problems and methods as both climates experience periods of severe drought.
In 2013, he traveled to Israel for the first time ever, calling it “the most remarkable seven-day trip of my life, without question.” He dined with former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, met with current Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and visited the Golan Heights and other sites.
Hickenlooper also heard from the experts at the Jewish National Fund. “We have millions of acres with dead trees on it that we’re going to have to replant,” he told The Colorado Statesman. “In terms of drought and fire-resistant trees, they’re the experts in the world.”
‘Critical to stand should-to-shoulder with Israel’
The following year, Hickenlooper issued a statement following rocket attacks launched by Hamas in Gaza against Israel.
“Violence in the Middle East has escalated, as Israel has launched rocket strikes against the terrorist organization Hamas in Gaza,” he said. “As outlined in a bipartisan resolution that was adopted in the U.S. Senate by unanimous consent on Tuesday evening, I support the United States’ mediation efforts for a durable ceasefire agreement that immediately ends Hamas rocket assaults and leads to the demilitarization of Gaza.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims of the violence on both sides. In chaos and carnage, right and wrong bleed in the rubble, and it becomes more critical that we stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Israel, the only enduring democracy in the region,” he continued. “We wish the Middle East the peace it has for so long been unable to find.”
In March 2015, Hickenlooper criticized the fraying relationship between the United States and Israel as Netanyahu addressed a joint session of Congress that was boycotted by Democrats, such as those in the Obama administration, including the president himself.
“I think it’s unfortunate that this became a partisan issue. The relationship between the U.S. and Israel should never be partisan,” Hickenlooper told FOX 31 Denver. “Both parties have always stood steadfast in their support of Israel.”
The governor expressed support for what was then negotiations between America and Iran over the latter’s nuclear-weapons program.
“I can’t believe that the United States would ever do anything to put Israel at risk,” said Hickenlooper. “I think Netanyahu’s concern is that our tolerance for risk might be higher than Israel’s.”
Cannabis partnership with Israel
The following October, Hickenlooper led a two-week business delegation to Israel, declaring that the Jewish state could be a partner in the recreational cannabis industry, leading to more revenue for Colorado. He met with Netanyahu again and visited the Western Wall in Jerusalem.
“We are reaching out. You guys have some of the top resources in the world on some of these effects, and we have resource money now, so we are looking for partners,” Hickenlooper told The Jerusalem Post in Tel Aviv.
In that same interview, Hickenlooper expressed astonishment over how violence in Israel is covered in the press.
“When we put the television on after 9/11—and for seven days, all we did was watch the towers fall—we were doing the work of the terrorists,” he said. “I guess I was just surprised by how much the media was dominated by these attacks, which admittedly are alarming.”
“I don’t want to diminish it in any way,” he continued. “This kind of violence is disturbing, but I think historically, Israel’s response to terror has been more measured, and it seems to be everywhere, and relative to when suicide bombers were blowing up and going into crowds, this violence, you wouldn’t think it would get the same sensational headlines.”
In 2016, Hickenlooper signed into law legislation that mandates Colorado’s retirement program divest from firms that boycott Israel.
He also signed onto the American Jewish Committee’s Governors United Against BDS campaign.
While Hickenlooper is joining an already crowded and growing field of 14 candidates, his executive experience from a purple Western state could appeal to moderate voters in the Democratic Party.