Rubio: Israel Won’t Have a Better Friend Than Me

Campaign signs at a rally for Republican presidential candidate, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., Tuesday, March 8, 2016. (AP Photo/Gary McCullough)
Campaign signs at a rally for Republican presidential candidate, Senator Marco Rubio, R-Fla., in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., last Tuesday. (AP Photo/Gary McCullough)

Speaking to a Jewish group over the weekend, Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio said that among his first actions if elected would be to visit Israel. “On my first day in office, I will put an end to the double standard with which the Obama administration treats Israel. Israel will not have a better friend than me.”

Ahead of Tuesday’s primary, where many polls show him trailing Donald Trump, the Republican senator is seeking to shore up support in his home state. Speaking to the crowd in Florida, Rubio said that under his leadership, the U.S. would clearly side with Israel in the Middle East conflict. “We are going to take a side and we are going to be on Israel’s,” USA Today reported. “I think Israel is willing to be incredibly accommodating and have proven their willingness to do so. The Palestinian Authority has never shown any willingness, in fact, they have turned down some very generous offers in the past.”

In his speech, Rubio decried what he called the Obama administration’s consistent anti-Israel stances, from President Obama’s “disrespectful” attitude to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to its “shocking” support for the Iranian nuclear deal, to the State Department’s “obsessive fascination” with Israel’s actions as “one of the biggest problems of the United States.” The administration “habitually lectures Israel even as they turn into targets for terrorists, in their homes and in the streets.” He also denounced the labeling of products from Yehudah and Shomron as an attempt to ruin Israel’s economy, and railed against the State Department for praising the EU’s decision to institute such labeling.

“I understand the threats Israel faces, and I will not remain apathetic or call on both sides to act with restraint, as if this was not a case of one side acting violently and the other side defending itself,” said Rubio, adding that he would not hesitate to confront Palestinian leaders and call them on their behavior. Among the items on his foreign-policy agenda will be canceling the Iran deal, instituting legal sanctions against groups that promote boycotts of Israel, and holding back on U.N. funding if it does not treat Israel fairly.

Rubio also criticized Trump for his “neutral” stance on the Israel-Arab conflict – between terrorists and their victims, Rubio stressed. “Even President Obama wouldn’t make such a naïve and baseless declaration,” he said. “The last thing we need is a president who does not understand who our friends are.”