Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio’s speech to the Republican Jewish Coalition has been energizing conservatives and was shared frequently on Twitter. In it, the Senator from Florida and member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee outlined a hawkish position to bolster what he feels is a waning American influence in the world and support Israel against the boycott campaign. Here are some key takeaways from his speech (which can be viewed in full at his website):
Rubio opposed international campaigns to pressure Israel over its West Bank settlements.
He called the European Union’s product labeling rule, which requires products produced in the West Bank to be labeled as “made in settlements” anti-Semitic.
“The rule applies to no other country – not to Russia, which invaded Georgia and Ukraine, nor China, which occupies Tibet. The EU is singling out only Israel,” Rubio said.
“Discriminatory laws that apply only to Jews are now being written into European law for the first time in more than half a century. I believe we need a president who is not afraid to call this out for what it is: anti-Semitism,” he continued.
He also promised to “defund UN entities that attack Israel or promote anti-Semitism.”
The US did, under President Obama, cut off funding to UNESCO after UNESCO voted to admit Palestine. That was in accordance with laws passed in 1990 and 1994. As such, the US lost its voting rights within UNESCO.
Rubio also promised to oppose the domestic “BDS” (“boycott, divest, and sanction”) campaign within the US.
Rubio would not follow the nuclear deal with Iran.
Rubio reaffirmed his past promises to abandon the nuclear deal the Obama administration and five other nations negotiated with Iran that attempts to stop or limit its nuclear development.
“Let me be loud and clear about how I will begin: I will immediately shred this president’s disastrous deal with Iran. … And those who are now rushing to do business with Iran need to know that upon taking office, I will re-impose the sanctions that President Obama plans to waive over congressional objection,” he said.
All the member nations of the UN security council and Germany also agreed to this deal, and Rubio didn’t make clear how he would be able to get the other nations–including China and Russia–to reimpose sanctions, without which, Iran would still have access to many Western markets. Opposing the Iran deal is standard language on the campaign trail for GOP politicians. Most of the Republican candidates–with the exceptions of Jeb Bush, John Kasich, and Rand Paul–have promised to renege on the deal. It could very well be the first promise a Republican candidate, if elected, would break.
Rubio did also promise to strengthen sanctions against Iran for its support of terrorist and militia groups. This could be a way for him as president to increase sanctions on Iran while also continuing to comply with the terms of the nuclear deal, as sanctions related to military and non-nuclear related issues are allowed.
Ayatollah Khamenei, in a letter to President Rouhani in October, argued that, “[A]ny imposition of sanctions at any level and under any pretext (including repetitive and fabricated pretexts of terrorism and human rights) on the part of any of the countries involved in the negotiations will constitute a violation of the JCPOA.”
(Not-so) Veiled Shots at Trump
Rubio called out “some in our own party” who “actually question Israel’s commitment to peace.” Who could that “some” be?
Jewish Journal: December 3, 2015 – Trump questions Israel’s commitment to peace
“A lot will have to do with Israel and whether or not Israel wants to make the deal — whether or not Israel’s willing to sacrifice certain things,” Trump said. “They may not be, and I understand that, and I’m OK with that. But then you’re just not going to have a deal.”
If Rubio wasn’t clear enough who he was referring to, he added:
“Some in our own party actually call for more sacrifice from the Israeli people.”
“This is not a real estate deal with two sides arguing over money.”
The offending words were mild compared to the bulk of the speech Trump gave the same day, which Think Progress called “Just A Series Of Offensive Stereotypes About Jews”:
After attempting to connect with the audience by saying that he’s “a negotiator like you folks,” he again circled back to the same point. “Is there anyone in this room who doesn’t negotiate deals?” he asked. “Probably more than any room I’ve ever spoken.”
At another point, he told the audience: “I don’t want your money so therefore you’re probably not going to support me.”
Rubio stresses foresight (in a veiled contrast with Obama)
A major Republican criticism of Obama’s foreign policy is that he didn’t see crisis developing and thus reacted long after they became problems. Republicans blame Obama’s refusal to get involved in Syria and uphold his red line against Assad as a factor in causing the rise of ISIS.
In this context, Rubio answered a question after the speech by saying, “You need a president with the foresight to understand this. A president that doesn’t just understand what’s in front of you, but understands what it’s going to turn into in two or three or five years if you don’t do something about it.”
Rubio specifically mentioned Libya as an example that he says he was warning about. Other examples Republicans have cited against Obama include his assurance that ISIS was a “jayvee team” before ISIS took Iraq and his failure to see Russian aggression on the rise.