Jeb Touts Brother’s Legacy As Guidance on Israel

Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush would not pursue the two-state solution or ask Israel to take additional steps to renew peace negotiations with the Palestinians, if elected as president in the fall.

In a wide-ranging interview with Jewish Insider on the campaign trail Thursday, Jeb listed a set of pre-conditions before he would work to bring the Palestinians to return to the negotiation table and help the two parties move forward towards a viable peace settlement.

“Not until the Palestinians recognize the right of Israel to exist within safe and secure borders; not until they stop the hatred of the Jewish State, and of Jews in general; not until they stop teaching their children to hate Israelis, and not until they have the capability of delivering on any negotiated settlement,” Jeb stressed.

The Republican presidential hopeful told Jewish Insider that his brother George W. Bush’s legacy as president and relationship with Israel “is a model of how to go about the U.S. relationship with Israel – that you don’t force Israel to negotiate with the Palestinians until they have established some degree of credibility, because they have none; until they recognize Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish State inside safe and secure borders, or say it not; until they have the political legitimacy to not only commit to a deal but enforce a deal, which they don’t.”

Former President George W. Bush was indeed viewed as being pro-Israel and had managed to maintain a warm relationship with Israel’s Prime Ministers throughout his presidency. Nonetheless, he was also the first U.S. President to publicly endorse the creation of an independent Palestinian State – one that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu opposed at the time – and continuously called on Israel to stop its settlement activity, at least outside of the large settlement blocs.

Jeb, who’s competing for the Republican nomination with Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz from one side, and Donald Trump and Chris Christie from the other side, refused to say whether he is supports or opposes the two state solution. “As I said, I believe my brother was the strongest friend to Israel in modern history, and that would be a guide as it relates to my presidency – plain and simple,” he said.

Asked if he would do something differently, since nothing has seemed to work until now, Jeb responded, “No, I wouldn’t. That’s the lesson learned by my brother’s administration.”

Jeb also sought to reassure the pro-Israel and Jewish Republican hawkish donors that former Secretary of State James Baker is just one of many advisors on foreign policy and national security issues. “Baker is a statesman, he’s a friend, but he’s not providing advice as it relates to Israel,” Jeb told JI. “I speak to my brother regularly. I do seek my brother’s advice and I think he was a great president as it relates to having undying, committing loyalty to the U.S.-Israel alliance.”

Unlike President Obama and several of his republican rivals, Jeb is not planning a trip to Israel during the campaign and refused to commit that his first trip abroad as president would be Israel. “I’ve been to Israel five times. I don’t have plans to visit there,” he said. “But what I’ve said is that on Day One I would announce that the U.S. Embassy would move from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.”

We also discussed with the Republican presidential hopeful his views on the Iran nuclear deal, Iran’s dispute with Saudi Arabia, his relationship with the Jewish community in Florida and why he would win a consistency test with any of his Republican rivals.

In the dispute between Iran and Saudi Arabia, Bush said, “If you had to pick between Iran and Saudi Arabia, we should be on the side of Saudi Arabia.”

“Look at history – the Saudis have been oil allies of the United States and Iran has been a consistent enemy of the interests of the U.S. and of our own country. I think we need to show support to Saudi Arabia,” he asserted. “One would hope that there’s not an armed conflict coming forward. But our inability to be consistent in terms of our support of one of our strongest and longest-serving allies in the region, is partially the reason why we have this conflict emerging. If there was sense that the United States had to back up Saudi Arabia, I don’t think they would’ve taken any kind of actions that would have provoked Iran.”

The full interview with Jeb Bush will be published over the weekend.

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