Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio said Monday that the U.S. relationship with Israel will reset itself if would be elected president, and accused President Barack Obama of purposely harming ties with Israel in order to curry favor with the Muslim world.
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Rubio, who is likely to emerge as the top establishment candidate behind Donald Trump and Ted Cruz in Tuesday's primary in New Hampshire, was asked during a campaign event in Nashua what he would do to restore the warm ties with Israel as president.
"I believe my election or the election of someone like me, in and by itself will help reset that relationship in the eyes of the world,” Rubio said, the Jewish Insider's Jacob Kornbluh reported.
According to the Florida senator, the Obama administration deliberately created distance between the U.S. and Israel in an effort to improve the U.S. standing and its perception in the Muslim world.
"It's been a disaster," he added.
The Republican candidate said the Obama administration damaged the relationship with Israel by briefly suspending military sales during the last Gaza war, and by making an implied threat that the U.S. won't use its veto power in the UN Security Council against a possible resolution recognizing a Palestinian state.
Rubio also slammed Obama for treating Iran's supreme leader with "more respect" than Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, due to Israel's opposition to the Iran nuclear deal.
The U.S.-Israel relationship has become strained during the incumbencies of Obama and Netanyahu, reaching a nadir when the Israeli prime minister addressed Congress regarding the Iran deal last March without notifying the White House in advance.
Most recently, negotiations on a new military aid package have become stuck as the U.S. and Israel try to strong-arm one another. After Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said at Sunday's cabinet meeting that if Israel's security needs would not be met, he would not sign a deal and would instead wait for the next president to take office in January 2017, senior U.S. officials reacted angrily and warned that the budgetary situation would not improve, and that Israel would not get a better deal with the next president.
Like practically all of his fellow Republican candidates for president, Rubio has taken a hawkish line when it comes to Israel, slamming the Obama administration’s treatment of the country and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Rubio is a vocal Israel backer, opposed the Iran nuclear deal and wants stepped-up Iran sanctions
Rubio may be the candidate of choice for Jewish casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, who spent between $100 million and $150 million of his estimated $32 billion fortune backing Republicans in the 2012 presidential campaign. Sources close to Adelson told Politico in April that the billionaire likes the Florida senator’s strong stance on defense, including his strident support for Israel. And after Rubio declared he’d run for president, the Adelson-owned Israeli newspaper, Israel Hayom, gave Rubio coverage some reviewers described as “fawning.”
JTA contributed to this report.