Here is another sign that we are going to see the issue of Israeli settlements in occupied territories politicized in next year’s election campaign.
In March, Senator Marco Rubio of Florida gave a speech on the Senate floor calling on the U.S. to give unconditional support to Israel, including its settlement project in the West Bank, which he described as “Judea and Samaria” and vital to Israel’s defense.
Rubio called out Hillary Clinton because she “berated” Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu for 45 minutes in 2010 over the question of settlements in East Jerusalem. “As if Jerusalem was not part of Israel,” Rubio said.
He went on to assail Obama for criticizing settlements at the United Nations and he said that Israel could not “return to its indefensible pre-1967 borders.”
Now it turns out that Rubio’s biggest backer, Norman Braman, the Florida businessman who is expected to spend between $10 and 25 million on Rubio’s presidential campaign, is a friend of Israeli settlements on the West Bank.
Eli Clifton reports that Braman has supported the Israeli settlement of Ariel.
Between 2004 and 2008, Braman’s family foundation contributed $311,000 to American Friends of Ariel, an organization that funds the development of Ariel, an Israeli settlement in the West Bank…. Ariel is illegal under international law and in direct contradiction of U.S. policy.
Braman helped promote and raise money for the settlement at a 2007 “Peace with Security Dinner” for American Friends of Ariel, held in Fort Lauderdale. Braman served as honorary chairman of the dinner and the “dinner committee” included Zionist Organization of America president Morton Klein and bingo-magnate Irving Moskowitz, a high profile funder of Israeli settlements.
Last year, Ariel mayor Eliyahu Shaviro made an “inaugural trip to the USA” in which he met with “generous supporters like Norman Braman,” according to a Friends of Ariel press release.
Marco Rubio lately told the New York Times that Braman never asked him for anything. But many of Braman’s ideas about Israel as an answer to the Holocaust, about the scourge of delegitimization of Israel, about Obama’s criticism of Israel, and about the negative role of the U.N. were echoed by Rubio in his speech in March. Hardly surprising, given that Braman has been a father figure to Rubio and met him in Israel days after the senator was first elected, in 2010.
“Israel represents everything we want that region of the world to be. Israel is a democracy…. Don’t we wish the entire Middle East looked that way?.. It has a special and unique purpose. It was founded as the homeland for the Jewish people in the aftermath of the second world war and the Holocaust… It’s not just a nation, it’s a nation with a special and unique purpose, unlike any other nation in the world….
“They [Israel] need American support, unconditionally. If there are differences, they need to be dealt with privately, like with other allies.”
And Benjamin Netanyahu is right, Rubio said: “A two state solution is impossible given the current circumstances.”
Eli Clifton says that Rubio has emerged as the neoconservative favorite in the campaign:
Braman and [Paul] Singer seem to like what they’re hearing as Rubio emerges as the GOP presidential candidate most sympathetic to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing government, although he has heavy competition. Rubio, for his part, appears to be on a well-paid campaign to disrupt diplomacy with Iran as well as any possibility of a two-state solution between Israel and a future Palestinian state.
Paul Singer’s Elliott Management has been Rubio’s second-largest contributor in the years 2009-2014. And Singer has been a major funder of neoconservative shops, The Israel Project and the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.
Paul Singer is also central because he was Jeb Bush’s host last week at New York’s Metropolitan Club when Bush made his famous flip-flop, embracing his brother George as his top Middle East adviser.
It’s no wonder that Jeb Bush is pandering to Singer; he has to take on Rubio on these issues in order to try and get Paul Singer away from Rubio in the coming campaign.
By the way, Chris Matthews said that Bush was speaking to “a Jewish group” when he did that flipflop. But it wasn’t a Jewish group; it was financiers, according to the Washington Post, gathered by “GOP mega-donor Paul Singer and his advisers so their associates could hear from Bush.” Now I think Matthews’s error is understandable. There is only one group in our country calling for war with Iran, and that’s rightwing pro-Israel Jews. They are well-connected in Jewish organizational life, and the established Jewish community has maintained unity around these militant views for a long time– though lately it is at last permitting criticism of these hawks. The growing Jewish diversity on these questions is what will allow the Democratic nominee for president to run against the settlements, I predict; she will be able to raise big money and criticize the settlement project, somewhat anyway. Though I wonder whether Clinton will adopt Rubio’s view of Jerusalem.