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GOP Candidates Unite in Support for Israel, Differ on Details

The four remaining Republican candidates for President laid out their support for Israel during a debate Thursday night.

The discussion moved towards Israel when Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) criticized Donald Trump for saying that he would be “neutral” between the Israelis and the Palestinians, and for not promising to scrap the nuclear deal with Iran.

Trump defended himself by saying that his pro-Israel bona fides were proven by his selection to be grand marshal of New York City’s Israel Day parade in 2004, and by the fact that his daughter, son-in-law, and grandchildren are Jewish. He added that in order to broker a peace agreement, which even the “toughest and the sharpest” Israelis want, he had to publicly be neutral, or else the Palestinians wouldn’t trust him. He added that the nuclear deal was  “the worst deal I’ve ever seen negotiated,” and said that unless Iran abides by its terms, which he deemed unlikely, “that deal will be broken.”

Cruz rebutted that the president must “understands the national security interests of this country,” and that that meant appreciating that Israel is a liberal democracy and “our strongest ally in the region.” Cruz also noted that neutrality implied not holding the Palestinian Authority responsible for its financial support for families of terrorists and its unity deal with the Iran-backed terror organization Hamas.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) called the Palestinian Authority’s incitement of terror “undeniable.” He also added, echoing a theme that has become more prevalent across the political spectrum in Israel, that because of Abbas’ continued rejectionism, “there is no peace deal possible with the Palestinians at this moment.” He stated that the Palestinian Authority “is not interested in a serious deal,” and noted that past Israeli territorial concessions have led to more terror. “Maybe in 30 years the conditions will exist [for peace], but they do not exist now,” he concluded.

Gov. John Kasich (R-Ohio) agreed that Palestinian leaders have incited violence against Israel, referring specifically to rhetoric that Israel was supposedly threatening the Dome of the Rock. He also expressed his appreciation for the fact the United States helped Israel defend itself against rockets with the Iron Dome. “Could you imagine living in like Miami here and having people shooting missiles in?” he asked. In addition to being threatened from above by rockets, Kasich noted, Hamas is also building tunnels to attack Israel from below.

Kasich was less optimistic about the prospects for peace than Rubio, saying, “I don’t believe there is any long-term permanent peace solution,” and that therefore the only way the United States can promote stability is “by supporting the Israelis and making sure they have the weapons and the security that they need with our 100 percent backing.”

A video of the debate starting at the beginning of the discussion about Israel is embedded below. A complete transcript of the debate is here.

[Photo: Marco Rubio / YouTube ]