Rubio: Israel’s security key to regional stability

Possible 2016 Republican presidential candidate wraps up 5-day trip to region, says Iran not Israeli problem, but "problem of the world."

US Senator Marco Rubio 370 (photo credit: REUTERS/Adrees Latif)
US Senator Marco Rubio 370
(photo credit: REUTERS/Adrees Latif)
US Senator Marco Rubio (RFlorida) flipped the oft-heard equation that Israeli-Palestinian peace was the key to stability in the region, saying Thursday that the security of Israel was the “lynchpin” to solving many of the regional conflicts, “particularly the Palestinian question.”
Wrapping up a five-day trip to Israel, Jordan and the West Bank, Rubio – widely considered a possible 2016 Republican presidential candidate – told a Jerusalem press conference that he viewed every issue in the region through the prism of Israel’s security.
“No nation in the world has suffered more in recent times than Israel from war and violence, in terms of its neighbors,” he said.
He said the ultimate goal was two states for two peoples, but it was a process that must be negotiated and could not be imposed by the US or any international bodies.
“The greatest advancements in this process have always been made when Israel felt secure. There is a direct relationship between Israel’s security and the ability to make concessions and move forward,” the freshman senator said. “The more secure Israel is, the likelier it is going to be that this issue is going to be solved.”
Rubio also warned against raising expectations beyond “what is immediately realistic, because expectations that are elevated, and then unmet, become counterproductive to the entire process.”
He said this sentiment had been echoed “on both of the sides of the divide” during his meetings in the region.
The senator refrained from condemning the settlements, saying this, too, was an issue that had to be worked out in negotiations, and should not be imposed from the outside.
He said the No. 1 impediment to a negotiated agreement on all the issues with the Palestinians was Israel’s security. He added that it was not for the US to “go in and dictate what the resolution of that issue [the settlements] should be.”
Rubio said he was “proud” of America’s “bipartisan commitment” to its relationship with Israel. He predicted that US President Barack Obama’s upcoming visit would send a clear signal that despite “our many differences on many issues in the US, there is clear bipartisan support for a number of principles in foreign policy,” including preventing Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons, and a commitment to Israel’s security.
He replied with a clear “no” when asked whether the Chuck Hagel nomination for defense secretary had come up in his discussions in Jerusalem, and refused to discuss the issue at the press conference, saying he would not talk about the confirmation process while traveling abroad.
Regarding Iran, he stressed that it was not an Israeli problem, but “a problem of the world,” and that while he hoped and prayed sanctions would work, “we need to be prepared for the possibility” that they may not.
Turning to Syria, Rubio described himself as a “forceful advocate for US engagement and involvement” in that country, and said there were two conflicts taking place there at the same time.
The first was “to get rid of [Syrian President Bashar] Assad, and the second conflict unfortunately is between those working to get rid of Assad, and the different interests they have for the long-term of that country and the region.”
He said it was important for the US to be involved “because we want to ensure that responsible actors are the ones who ultimately win that conflict.”