The Need to Stand With Israel
Around the State
(Note: At a June 10 event hosted by the Republican Jewish Coalition’s Florida Region Chapter, Marco Rubio, Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate, delivered the following remarks about the need for the United States to stand with Israel without equivocation or hesitation. They are reprinted in full below.)
Today, our nation faces economic and security threats as great as any it has ever confronted.
Over the last 16.5 months, our current administration has placed our country on a dangerous and unsustainable economic path. They are undermining our free market system through unbridled, wasteful spending on a big government agenda that has failed to create the jobs promised. It has paid for this agenda with an exploding debt, recklessly borrowing money to the tune of $4.9 billion each day.
The world is a safer place when America is the strongest country in the world. But America’s security relies as much on our economic vitality and power as it does on our military and diplomatic strength. Our enemies care as much about our debt as they do about our missiles. And they dream not only of more days like Sept.11, but also of a Greece-like day of reckoning for America.
This administration’s dangerous economic policies are tragically coupled with a dangerous foreign policy, as well. In just 16 months, this administration has done the following:
- offended our Honduran allies by strong-arming civilians marching for a return to a constitutional democracy;
- done little to pressure China to rein in North Korea;
- snubbed Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu;
- sat quietly while Russia formalized its occupation of the Republic of Georgia, and abandoned our European allies by canceling plans to deploy missile defense sites.
The Obama doctrine of appeasing our enemies, alienating our allies, and delegating our national security to the international community may have won President Obama a Nobel Peace Prize, but it has made the world a more volatile and dangerous place.
This administration has turned its back on the decades-old post-World War II system of alliances that previous presidents, Republicans and Democrats alike, built and nurtured. The result has been chaos. Today our allies look at America and the future of U.S. foreign policy as a proverbial jump ball, with unprecedented uncertainty about where America will stand.
Israel is a particularly striking example of what is wrong with President Obama’s approach to foreign policy. The modern state of Israel is deeply rooted in ancient times. And despite being under the control of various powers, resulting in a worldwide Jewish Diaspora, there has been a continuous, unbroken Jewish presence in the land of Israel for over 3,000 years.
Israel declared its independence on May 14, 1948 and its neighbors attacked. And Israel has been under military, economic, diplomatic and propaganda attack ever since.
Simply put, no nation on Earth has faced or is facing the combination and severity of threats as Israel has. Its entire population lives with thousands of missiles and rockets constantly aimed at them. Routine acts -- such as riding a bus to work or school, or sitting in a café reading or surfing the Internet -- require an unnecessary level of courage amid homicide bombers.
Terrorist groups such as Hamas have enshrined Israel’s destruction in their founding charters. And nations such as Iran, and its illegitimate president, publicly deny Israel’s right to exist, call for her annihilation, defy the world by developing nuclear weapons, and support terrorist proxies to carry out their deadly work.
Israel’s enemies have made war zones out of buses, cafes, malls, airplanes, and even an Olympic village in Munich.
No nation on Earth would be expected to accept such threats within their own borders. And so no nation has the right to demand that Israel do so, either.
Despite this extraordinary burden she has had to bear, Israel is a success in every measure. It is a developed country with a free enterprise system of economics and the 51st largest nominal gross domestic product in the world. And it is a Western-style representative democracy.
Israel’s survival, not to mention its success, is nothing short of a miracle.
Since 1948, the United States and Israel have been inextricably linked -- religiously, spiritually and culturally. But we are also linked by our shared hope for a common destiny -- to be enduring democracies, robust economies and freedom-loving, peace-seeking nations.
Israel and the United States share exceptional values. They are the values that have made America the single greatest society in human history, and they are the values that make Israel a democratic and free market success story in the heart of a volatile Middle East.
This is why, since Israel’s founding, Americans have been committed to not simply protecting Israel’s right to exist, but protecting its right to thrive. Israel has had no better friend than America, and America has had no better friend than Israel.
Support for Israel by the United States in a time of crisis has been a given for over 60 years. And yet, lately, there is the emerging sense that this longstanding relationship isn’t what it used to be. We are in the midst of an all-out, concerted global effort to delegitimize Israel’s right to exist. The recent flotilla incident and the reaction of many in the international community is nothing more than a part of that effort.
In no way can the U.S. allow a path to be cleared that would enable the United Nations or any international body to discredit and diminish our democratic friend and partner. If Israel’s right to self-defense is undermined by efforts to lift its legal and necessary blockade of Gaza, which serves to stop Hamas from arming itself with deadly weapons, there will be lasting consequences not only for Israel, but also for the U.S. and the entire world.
Israel’s enemies are, or will soon be, America’s enemies, as well. They are emboldened every time they sense any sort of daylight between the United States and Israel. Now, more than at any other time, it is important that America have a firm and clear relationship with Israel; a relationship based on a number of key pillars:
First, recognize that Israel is a valued American ally, our closest and most reliable friend in the Middle East, and the only democracy there. Living in a democracy, Israel’s Arabs enjoy fundamental human rights and liberties that are limited or virtually nonexistent in majority-ruled Arab countries. Israel is not a problem or obstacle to peace and should not be treated as one. In every incident, every pronouncement and every action related to Israel, enemies like Iran, Hamas and Hezbollah look for signs of weakness in America’s support as an invitation to undermine Israel and move one step closer to her destruction. The stronger the U.S.-Israel alliance, the stronger the moderate, pro-U.S. elements in the Arab world will be. If the U.S. shows itself to be an unreliable ally to Israel, moderate Arab states will take note that they cannot trust the U.S. to be a reliable friend for them, either.
Second, our military aid to Israel is vital to her security and to our own interests. It has been longstanding American policy to support Israel’s efforts to maintain a competitive military edge over its adversaries.
As Prime Minister Netanyahu has noted, “If the Arabs lay down their arms, there will be no more war; but if Israel lays down its weapons, there would be no more Israel.” Israeli advances in missile defense, anti-IED technologies and other weapons serve mutual interests. Our support for such programs should continue. Unfortunately, the Obama administration has jettisoned this policy by withholding Israel’s access to the advanced defense equipment required to deter, and if necessary defeat, any adversary. This must change. Instead of putting even more pressure on Israel, we should do everything to make Israel feel safe.
Third, Israel wants peace with the Palestinians, and the U.S. should support efforts by the two parties to make peace through face-to-face negotiations.
We should actively support pragmatic efforts to build Palestinian institutions in the West Bank, so that Palestinian self-rule becomes possible – without imposing unacceptable risks for Israel's security.
However, rather than focus on defending the security of Israel, the president is rolling the dice on his theory that an intensive focus on the Mideast peace process will somehow resolve every other issue in the region. He, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the administration insist on putting the cart before the horse in believing a solution will lead to greater acceptance of Israel around the world, will force the Palestinians to run a proper society, and will lead to a waning of extremism.
However, these results are actually the conditions that are needed to reach a solution in the first place. So long as other governments mercilessly criticize Israel; so long as the Palestinians ignore the problems of their own society and blame everything on Israel; and so long as Palestinian extremists are emboldened by extremist forces across the region, a two-state solution almost certainly can't happen. The U.S. should seek to alleviate those larger problems in order to make Israeli-Palestinian peace possible -- not the other way around.
Before demanding Israeli withdrawals in the West Bank, the U.S. should also recall the lessons of South Lebanon and Gaza – where, after Israeli withdrawal, these areas became terrorist bases, not the basis for peace. We should always remember that the obstacle to peace isn't Israel; it is Palestinian extremists and Islamic terrorists who will not accept the Jewish state. In working toward a solution, we should assist the Palestinians and Israelis in reaching agreements, and encourage other Arab parties to normalize with Israel and back those Palestinian interests committed to peace with Israel.
Fourth, Jerusalem is Israel's capital, as the U.S. Congress has repeatedly recognized. The U.S. should work toward the goal of moving our embassy there. We should stop condemning or punishing Israel for allowing Jews to build homes in their capital city, one to which Jews have an historic and religious attachment.
Fifth, construction activity in West Bank settlements has never before prevented negotiations, and a "construction freeze" should not be a precondition for them.
Israel has shown -- in Sinai, Gaza, and the West Bank -- the willingness to remove settlements and their inhabitants. The government of Israel, under several prime ministers, has made clear its understanding that a negotiated agreement with the Palestinians will require removal of many West Bank settlements. The U.S. must continue to support the position expressed by President Bush in a 2004 letter to Prime Minister Sharon, which stated that there would be no return to the 1949 armistice lines and that those lines would have to be adjusted to reflect changes on the ground since 1967 -- major new settlements where thousands of Israeli families live. While years of negotiations continue, those families must be allowed some semblance of normality in their lives.
The sixth area of concern with U.S.-Israel foreign policy relates to our actions at international bodies like the United Nations.
In recent weeks, tensions have heightened in the Middle East with the confrontation provoked by the Turkish flotilla. It was outrageous for the United States to abandon Israel at the United Nations, and support a Security Council statement condemning the acts that led to bloodshed, including Israel’s need to defend itself.
There will be worldwide consequences if the United States continues to pressure Israel to lift its legal and necessary blockade of Gaza. Iran and its terrorist surrogates are the only ones who will benefit. A unilateral collapse of the Gaza blockade will make a new war much more likely. Weapons will pour into the hands of Hamas; Israel will be forced to react with military force; the Palestinians -- and world opinion -- will become even more radicalized. The world will turn even further away from a two-state solution, in favor of pressuring Israel into simply giving up on its own security.
It is also important to highlight the outrageous actions of the Obama administration in supporting the U.N. resolution – passed at the nuclear non-proliferation conference – just three days before the flotilla incident. President Obama, in his quest for a world free of nuclear weapons, has increasingly lumped Israel together with other countries outside of the nuclear nonproliferation regime, such as North Korea, India and Pakistan. I am deeply concerned that the U.S. chose to support a U.N. resolution that undermines Israel's security, while giving Iran a “free pass.” Americans simply do not want to hand over our security to multinational institutions, where anti-American majorities rule. Nor can we allow Israel’s legitimacy and credibility to be undermined in any way by these international bodies.
Finally, I want to focus on the single greatest threat to Israel, American interests in the region and the security of the entire world. It is a belligerent Iran with its nuclear program and aggressive support for terrorism.
A nuclear Iran poses a grave threat to its neighbors and the world alike. Iran has been a leading state sponsor of global terrorism. It has funded and armed Hezbollah and Hamas. It has supported our enemies in Iraq with weapons that have killed and wounded American soldiers. U.S. troops have also uncovered Iranian-produced IED devices in Afghanistan. Its president has repeatedly denied the Holocaust and pledged to exterminate Israel. And in the aftermath of its recent election, the Iranian regime showed no restraint in unleashing its aggression on its own people, murdering peaceful demonstrators protesting an illegitimate election result.
In the past 18 months, Iran has produced more enriched uranium than it did during the previous 30 years -- enough to produce at least two nuclear weapons. Why?
Here is the bottom line: Iran is committed to building a bomb. They believe that a nuclear capacity will convert them into the supreme regional power, and gain them leverage on America and the world. Even worse, it gives them the ability to carry out the threat to wipe Israel off the face of the Earth.
A nuclear Iran would be devastating. Suddenly, Islamic terrorist organizations like Hamas, Hezbollah and al-Qaida would have a willing supplier for nuclear weapons to use against Israel, the United States and any so-called “unbelievers” who stand in their way of establishing a global Islamic caliphate.
We all hope that the United Nations will impose crippling sanctions on Iran. But for all its strongly worded condemnation, the U.N. sanctions imposed yesterday are impotent, because they allow Russia to sell the S300 anti-aircraft missile system to Iran -- a system Iran wants for one reason alone: to shoot down Israeli and American planes.
The time has come for the U.S, Israel and every other willing nation to come together to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. This should include efforts to pursue strong economic sanctions against foreign companies that transport, finance, broker, or in any way facilitate the export of refined petroleum products, including gasoline and diesel fuel, to Iran.
In fact, there are things the U.S. can do unilaterally to set an example. As speaker of the Florida House, I supported legislation to require Florida’s pension funds to divest from companies doing business with Iran and Sudan, making ours the first state to do so. Building on this effort, I believe Congress should swiftly approve the “Iran Refined Petroleum Sanctions Act.”
Of course the ideal solution to Iran’s nuclear weapons program -- and ultimately many of the region’s problems -- lies in a process of democratic change in Iran that sends the Islamic revolution of Ayatollah Khomeini to the dustbin of history where it belongs. The people of Iran despise the regime and desperately seek a change.
Military action against Iran is undesirable; however, a nuclear Iran is unacceptable. Ultimately, we must use all means at our disposal to stop Iran from developing a nuclear weapon. And if Israel needs to act to prevent this, we should give her our full support.
For years, America and the international community have watched in vain as the Iranian regime withstood our soft diplomacy approach and brazenly continued its pursuit of a nuclear weapons program. For our security and that of the Middle East, it is way past time for crippling sanctions against Iran that truly make them pay a price for their nuclear ambitions.
For those, like me, born in the last decades of the last century, raised in an era of relative peace and prosperity, it has become common to expect that this is the way it will be all of our lives. But our history, both as Americans and as members of the human race, shows us something very different. Every generation, in every land, has had to face the particular challenges of their time.
Before and during World War II, Nazi Germany undertook a program of systematic genocide that killed over 11 million people, including over six million European Jews. Countless nations, individuals and institutions who were around during this time have spent the last 70 years answering a common question posed by their children and grandchildren: Where were you when this was happening and what did you try to do to stop it?
It is a powerful reminder that historians will write the final verdict on the choices we are making today, and our children and grandchildren will call us to account.
If America is bankrupted and diminished; if Iran acquires a nuclear weapon with which it blackmails the world; if the Jewish state is lost, our children will know we were around when it happened and they will want to know why ...
Why did we lose America -- the greatest society in all of history? Why did we fail to defeat tyranny the way our parents and grandparents did? Why did we allow the miracle of Israel to be extinguished?
These tragic outcomes are not inevitable. There is another choice. We can choose to do whatever it takes to keep America exceptional. We can choose to confront and defeat the threat posed by Iran, and radical Islamic jihadists. And we can choose to stand by our most loyal ally in the world to say clearly that if Israel is left with only one friend in the world, that will be the United States.
That is the crossroads at which we stand. Before us lie two different roads. This administration has chosen the wrong one; it is up to us to put us back on the right one.
This is the great challenge of our time. These are the great causes of our generation. Now, like the Americans that came before us, let us rise to meet our test.
May God bless Israel, and may God bless the United States of America. Thank you.