On Friday, Florida US Senator Marco Rubio returned from a trip to Israel. It was the senator’s second trip to the region.
The trip comes fresh off the Republican response to the State of the Union address, delivered by Rubio. It also comes a few weeks ahead of President Obama’s first trip to Israel as president and fuels speculation that the senator is contemplating a White House run in 2016.
One staunch Rubio supporter, the Washington Post‘s Jennifer Rubin, called Rubio’s visit as “fluid, disciplined, and informed as any senator in recent memory.” Without any significant gaffes, Rubio even managed to poke fun at his now-infamous water sip during his State of the Union response.
While in Israel, Rubio met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and spoke on several issues pertinent to the region: the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, settlements on the West Bank, Syria, and Iran’s nuclear program.
Meeting with Israeli President Shimon Peres, Rubio reasserted the claim of many past American politicians that Jerusalem was “of course, the capital of Israel.” On the issue of Israeli settlements on the West Bank, one of the more controversial elements in the Israeli-Palestinian divide, Rubio reiterated that the United States should not “go in and dictate what the resolution of that issue [the settlements] should be.”
Regarding the United States’ relationship with Israel, Rubio was effusive:
“There is no more important relationship for the United States, perhaps in the world but certainly in the region, than Israel. It’s one that has bipartisan support and I’m proud to say that Republicans and Democrats are united on that. . . . The ties between the United States and Israel are unbreakable.”
On Iran, Rubio reiterated his past support for sanctions. He told listeners he hoped future sanctions would be “intensified.” He also warned that even with sanctions, America’s objective in deterring nuclear proliferation may fail.
On Syria, Rubio offered a more wide-ranging, expansionist role for the US. On British television, Rubio said the US and the West should be more engaged:
“I know it’s difficult because the question is who do we engage with? But what I can say to the world is that if we’re not engaged … then I think we increase the chances that the outcome there is going to be very negative … The more involved we are, of course, the more influence we may have over not just who governs over Syria in the future, but what direction that they go…”
“I think one of the things we begin to explore is providing ammunition to the rebels. … That’s something I hope that some policymakers will consider because I do think that over the last few months a more responsible group of actors have emerged in contrast to some of the more radical elements that are on the ground in Syria. And we want them to be the strongest and most influential voices in a post-Assad Syria.”
During the short time he has been in Washington, US Senator Marco Rubio has made a name for himself. By traveling to Israel ahead of President Obama and making several of the customary stops, Rubio is placing himself in early presidential discussion.