Rubio Counters Cruz’s Assertion of Netanyahu’s Policy on Syria

The two main rivals for the heart of the Republican Party voters in the crowded field of presidential candidates – Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz – have now taken the debate over America’s foreign policy approach as it related to the war on ISIS and the Syrian civil war to explaining Israel’s policy on the matter.

On Monday, in an interview with the Daily Caller, Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio countered Cruz’s assertion of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s policy of not intervening in the Syrian conflict.

Last month, in an address at the Heritage Foundation, Cruz explained that his anti-interventionist policy on Syria is identical to Netanyahu’s policy on Syria. “I would note that my view that we don’t have a side in the Syrian civil war is shared by at least one other world leader with a cleared eye and a direct vision of what’s happening – Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyahu,” Cruz stated. “[Netanyahu] was asked when he visited Washington last month why he didn’t intervene in this Syrian civil war? And he responded, simply, that he would only do so if he had a clear side, which at this point he did not.” Cruz further quoted Netanyahu as saying, “When two of your enemies are fighting each other, I don’t say strengthen one or the other, I say weaken both, or, at least, don’t intervene.”

But according to Rubio, the Prime Minister’s policy is that one should not strengthen the Assad regime so that Sunni militias continue building their presence in the region by resisting him. “[Netanyahu]’s talking about in the context of Iran versus ISIS that, in essence, we shouldn’t be aligning ourselves with Iran in order to defeat ISIS,” Rubio asserted. “In the context of Syria, Assad is an enemy of Israel’s, but Assad is more than just an enemy of Israel’s, it’s an enemy of the United States. And as long as there’s Assad or an Assad-like leader in power, as long as Assad is in Damascus governing that country or portions of that country, there is going to be a Sunni-like movement resisting him. Whether it’s al-Nusra or ISIS now, there is going to be some Sunni movement that’s going to use Assad’s brutality as a recruiting tool to grow and prosper within Syria and ultimately to attack the West. And that’s what’s happened.

Rubio continued, “The other problem with Assad is Assad is a critical component of Iran’s plans to dominate the region. It is a puppet-state of Iran. It is a forward operating base for Iran. It is the place where Hezbollah receives assistance. It is how missiles are given from Iran to Hezbollah to use against Israel. It is the way Iran was able to get IEDs to insurgents in Iraq to kill and maim Americans. That notion that somehow Assad is someone that provides stability in the region is just false. Assad is the cause of much of the instability. He’s the cause of this refugee crisis. He’s a leading contributor to the rise of a group like ISIS, because of the way he’s governed that country.”

Also speaking on Monday, Israel’s Foreign Ministry Director General, Dore Gold suggested that while Israel’s policy is not to get pulled into the civil war or “get drawn into the question of who should replace Assad or how a future Syrian government may be selected,” Israel and Turkey “have an interest that Syria not be used as a base for threatening our vital interests.”

In a panel on the Middle East, hosted by The Wilson Center in Washington, DC, Gold emphasized that the Israeli government has been “very careful not to intervene in the Syrian civil war except if certain Israel vital interests are affected, such as the transfer of advanced weaponry to Hezbollah by Iran or by anybody else.” When asked by the moderator, Aaron David Miller, if that means that Israel does not care whether the black flag of ISIS would one day be flying over Damascus, Gold responded in a diplomatic manner: “If I told you I didn’t want to be afflicted with cancer, it wouldn’t mean I would be an advocate for heart attacks.” He further stressed that Israel would not accept the Iranians incoporating Syria into another Iranian State. “That is something which operates against Israle’s most vital seucirty interests. That is something which we could not accept.”

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