Why I, an American-Israeli, Support Marco Rubio for President
As an American immigrant to Israel, I have more than just a rooting interest in the future of the United States. Besides my abiding affection for the United States, and my conviction that it has represented a quantum leap forward for the dignity of man and the human condition, I have very practical concerns.
Even after the abusiveness of the Obama years, America is still Israel’s closest and most essential ally. Though Israel has made impressive progress in building new international relationships (while it watches some older ones wither), the relationship with the US remains vital.
No serious leader in Israel can ignore what happens to America, and no concerned Israeli citizen should feel differently. Speaking for myself, but I also think for most Israelis, the key consideration in the US presidential election is the replacement of an administration that has harbored an unmistakable animus for Israel, with an administration that actually sides with us.
This would hopefully entail a fundamental understanding, identification and empathy with the situation in which Israel finds itself vis a vis the Palestinians, Iran and the Arab world in general.
I do not envision that such empathy will be found among Bernie Sanders or Hillary Clinton, nor with Joe Biden, if he were to be drafted to run as the Democratic nominee.
Sanders has the Progressive Left view of Israel – the lack of peace is our fault — and he has already shown his hand by referring to J Street as a source and a frame of reference for the Mideast.
Hillary Clinton, despite her pandering to NY voters to get elected to the Senate, has a lifelong affinity for the Palestinian cause, exemplified by her embrace of Suha Arafat after she complained that the Israelis were poisoning the wells of Palestine.
Hillary is not her husband Bill, who felt a visceral identification with Israel. Her chief aide and guide is a CAIR member whose family has ties to the Muslim Brotherhood. She was the “junk yard dog” enforcer for Obama while secretary of state. Israelis well remember her nasty dressing-downs of Prime Minister Netanyahu when demanding a settlement freeze. There was too much spite for it to have been fabricated.
Her recent statement that she will defend Israel but believes that the Palestinians deserve “a state of their own,” sounds like a repeat of the Obama mentality. Four more years of backhanded support of Israel, contingent on our advancing the cause of Palestinian statehood, is a rather dismal, even dreadful, prospect.
Biden will overtly see himself as Obama’s “third term,” so we should expect no cathartic breakthroughs on our behalf.
This is a sad and a troublesome reality. The Democratic Party has traditionally been very supportive of Israel, and most Jews have traditionally been Democrats. Both of these realities are changing, as the Democrats move further to the Left, a leftism that makes common cause with the Palestinian narrative and views Israel through an increasingly post-Zionist lens of chauvinism, colonialism and oppression of Palestinians.
For Jewish Americans, this has presented the uncomfortable choice either of de-prioritizing Israel and remaining Democrats, or leaving the Democratic Party, formally or otherwise.
As Democrats back away from Israel, Republicans have filled the vacuum and drawn all the closer to the Jewish state. In large part, this growing support has been driven by Evangelical Christians, an important constituent in the GOP, and a group extremely supportive of Israel. Many if not most Israelis now believe that Evangelical support is more unambiguous, less nuanced and more full-throated than much of American Jewish support, especially that coming from liberal circles.
It is not hard to envision a Republican president being more sympathetic to Israel on issues concerning settlements, BDS initiatives, product-labeling and military procurement. There will be more comfort about the traditional supportive US posture in the UN Security Council. There will also be the benefits that should accrue to Israel in its dealings with other countries, which would perceive that, once again, there is no “daylight” between the US and Israel.
There is, actually, as I write this, a real-life significant example of the importance to Israel of who sits in the White House. The issue has to do with the conundrum of how to address Hamas’s none-too-secret tunnel-building, extending from Gaza underground into Israel.
The left-wing opposition, no less, has called for pre-emptive action against the tunnels, as has Naftali Bennett of the shoot-to-the-right-of-Netanyahu Jewish Home Party. Meanwhile, Bibi and Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon have pooh-poohed such an idea as reckless. Most Israelis probably side with the pre-emptors, especially after the damage and the less-than-satisfying denouement of Operation Protective Edge in 2014.
The widespread conjecture is that Bibi is being constrained by what he knows will be condemnation coming from the White House, which might also be extended to leaving Israel to the wolves at the UN Security Council.
So, the thought is that Bibi is waiting the situation out, holding off to see what follows in the wake of this distressingly hostile US administration. A friendly Republican administration would likely endorse, and at a minimum, not look too askance at pre-emption.
Of course, not all Republican candidates are equally pro-Israel.
Donald Trump has said wildly divergent things about Israel, and probably would be a highly unreliable friend. Many fear that, as an egoist, he would blame Israel for any of his failures to produce results in the region.
The governors who have recently dropped out, Chris Christie and Jeb Bush, were not wildly pro-Israel (Bush seemed closer to his father than his brother on Israel), and certainly Rand Paul was no friend.
Ben Carson and John Kasich are not serious candidates at this juncture, so their views on Israel, which are positive, are also unfortunately moot (I still think you might see Kasich as the Republican VP candidate, so his views, largely unknown to me, would be relevant.)
That leaves the two senators, Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, and here Israel has an embarrassment of riches. While we could debate who would be stronger for us, there is little doubt that either would represent an enormously beneficial change from the current regime. Both men feel for Israel in their personal guts, supporting it from conviction, not calculation.
So for me, as an avowedly “litmus issue” voter, the choice comes down to Cruz and Rubio. Now enters the critical issue of electability: on which Republican is not only good on the issues, but can actually prevail.
Here I think the decision easily goes to Rubio. Cruz has been a polarizing figure within his own party, and does not seem to be well positioned to engage independents, who typically are key in determining presidential elections. By contrast, Rubio has emerged as level-headed on immigration, and has reached across the aisle on this and other issues.
His personal story, background, youth and understanding of issues have impressed a broad spectrum of the electorate. He consistently polls as being the most electable of the Republicans.
Rubio can and would defeat Clinton in an election. The numbers showing up for voting in Republican versus Democratic primaries clearly contrast the excitement and desire level in 2016. The advantage is all to the GOP. Plus, if Rubio were to run with Kasich, a popular governor of Ohio, he would have strength in the two most important states in recent elections — Florida and Ohio — as well as a strong appeal to independents and moderate Democrats.
Also, at the end of the day, Americans want to vote for their hopes and not just their fears. Rubio offers hope; Clinton offers a déjà vu and reality that it’s all about her and the Clintons, and their situational ethics and cronyism.
So with that combination of being a true friend of ours, and a man who could very well wrest the presidency away from Democrats increasingly hostile to Israel, Marco Rubio is, for this American Israeli, the clear choice for president in 2016.