July 17, 2024

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ICYMI: Rubio Joins I24 News

U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) joined i24News in Israel to discuss his meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu, Iran’s role in the present conflict, the growing antisemitic movement in the U.S., and more. See below for highlights and watch the full interview here.

On Senator Rubio’s trip to Israel and meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu:

“His message to me is the one you’ve seen publicly, which is this commitment to finish the operation in Gaza, in particular with regards to Rafah. One of the things that drove me to visit here is, I don’t think enough attention is being paid in the United States to what’s happening in the north of Israel, where tens of thousands of Israelis have been displaced from their homes, where kids have had to leave school, because of a situation there with Hezbollah, which has, of course, increased since what happened on October 7th. Even as the situation in Gaza continues to unfold, and the Israelis are going to do what they need to do in order to make sure that Hamas is no longer a threat, we have this looming situation in the north of Israel with Hezbollah. That’s going to have to be addressed as well.”

On how Hezbollah compares to Hamas: 

“Hezbollah is multiple times more capable militarily than Hamas. It has not just an arsenal of rockets, but guided munitions. They can produce them domestically. And basically every single day, there are alerts and launches against the north of Israel…. What happened on October 7th with Gaza can never happen again, much less in the north. And it’s a situation Israel is going to have to confront. And I know that they know this. Ideally, the situation would be that there’d be some agreement of some sort that creates a demilitarized or buffer zone within the south of Lebanon. That’s the ideal outcome, obviously. But I think there needs to be greater awareness in the United States about how serious the situation is.”

On why international support for Israel matters:

“Hezbollah’s willingness to agree to some return of some sort of demilitarized zone…will be, in very many ways, driven by what their perceptions are of international support for Israel. And if they believe that Israel’s exhausted all of its international goodwill, and in particular support from the United States, because of Gaza, they may very well feel like there’s no pressure on them, and that they have all the leverage to continue doing what they’re doing and make no adjustments in Lebanon. I think that’s why it’s important. 

“I would tell you that in the United States, the number of Americans who are aware of the number of people from northern Israel who have been displaced is nil. Most people are not even aware that this is a reality. And I say, if 60 or 70 or 80 or 90,000 people in Texas were permanently displaced because some cartel in Mexico was launching rockets at us, what would be the reaction in the United States? I think in this particular case, on a per capita basis, we’re talking about millions of Americans permanently displaced. That’s what it would represent. I think there needs to be greater awareness so that Hezbollah is clear that the U.S. and all of Israel’s allies are supportive, not simply of the elimination of Hamas, but also dealing with the situation in the north.”

On Iran’s role in the present conflict:

“I think one of the biggest lies or misunderstandings in the debate about all of this is that somehow, the central issue in the region is the Israeli-Palestinian issue. It is not. The central issue in this region is Iran’s ambition to be a regional hegemonic power. They basically, now, have control of the Iraqi government. We’ve seen the influence and control they have over Syria. Hezbollah is a full-blown agent of Iran, right on Israel’s border. I think that puts Jordan in threat at some point. And obviously, we’ve seen the role the Houthis have played…. 

“What you’re seeing in northern Israel, [Iran would do] throughout the country, making Israel, at that point, an unlivable place, and it would collapse the state and achieve Iran’s ambition for the region. That’s really the central threat in this region. Now, imagine an Iran with a nuclear capability. Now they become Kim Jong Un. Now they become North Korea, with some level of immunity of action because of that nuclear threat that they would possess. 

“I think it is really important for people to wrap their heads around the fact that the central irritant of the destabilization, violence, and suffering in this region is not the Israeli-Palestinian issue…. If the Iranian regime were not in power and did not exist, there would be no Hezbollah. There probably would be no Hamas, certainly not with these capabilities. There most certainly would be no Houthi threat. Syria would look very different. Iraq would look very different. Imagine a region without the Iranian regime.”

On Americans’ naivete toward Iran:

“I think that one of the problems in the broader West is being naive about your enemies or being naive about your threats. And I think part of the missed opportunity here within Iran is the fact that the Iranian regime is just very unpopular. There are few countries in the world where the population and the leaders are more different than in the case of Iran. We saw just yesterday, they sentenced a dissident hip-hop artist or rapper to death….They are literally beating up women.”

On whether Iranian regime change should be a goal of the United States:

“It’s certainly a goal of the Iranian people. We should be supportive of that. We don’t spend enough time talking about the fact that the overwhelming majority [of Iranians], especially young Iranians, do not like this regime, do not like living under this regime, and want to live in a different world and in a different country. At a minimum, we should be echoing those voices and supporting them, not simply accepting this notion that somehow the Iranian regime is representative of the Iranian people. It is not.”

On Israel’s military strategy against Hamas:

“I’m not a military tactician, but the goal is that Hamas never has the capability to ever do again what it did on the 7th of October. And to [accomplish] that, you can’t allow the last remnant of their organization to emerge from this conflict, because they’ll claim it as a victory, and it will not just simply empower Hamas, it will also empower all of Israel’s enemies. Israel is a country whose national defense is almost entirely based on deterrence. If Hamas, as currently structured, survives this conflict, it will be the opposite of deterrence. It will encourage other groups to be more adventurous in their attacks on Israel. 

“Now, from a tactical perspective, the Israelis believe that taking [Hamas] out in their last stronghold [in Rafah is necessary]. I don’t speak for the Israeli government, obviously. I’m not a military tactician. But if that’s what they’ve deduced is necessary for victory, then I think we need to be supportive of it. And I would say that when it comes to rules of engagement, one of the important things I point out to my colleagues is, Israel’s engagement in Gaza has put more restrictions in an effort to protect innocent life than the U.S. put on our own troops in Afghanistan or in Iraq. 

“War is a terrible thing, because in war, innocent people die. In this particular case, many innocent people have died, because Hamas has deliberately placed them in the way and protected themselves with these human shields. When you’re dealing with an enemy that doesn’t value human life, we set a terrible precedent when we tell them that they can get away with it. I think Israel continues to take extraordinary steps to avoid innocent civilian losses in that region and has been very patient with this effort. But eventually, they’re going to have to go in and do what they need to do to finish this job.”

On Congress playing politics with Israel aid:

“We could have passed the Israel aid on October 8th. We could have passed it in November, December, or January. In fact, there were multiple efforts to pass it on its own. This is the only pro-American democracy in the entire region. And I don’t think there’s any question that we could have passed the Israel aid on its own. 

“There are differences of opinion on the importance of Ukraine. I personally feel that Ukraine is an important concept, but in American politics, if somebody wants something, you need leverage, and our southern border problem is very dramatic. 

“We have almost 10 million people now who have entered the United States from all over the world. We don’t know who many of these people are…. You’ve seen the FBI director repeatedly say that this is the highest risk of a terrorist attack that we’ve had in a long time. In fact, the other day, he basically said he fears that we could have a Moscow-style attack in the United States.”

On higher education painting Hamas as the victim of the conflict:

“Global-left ideology has taken root in American academia for a long time and basically holds this: the weaker you are, the more virtuous you are, the stronger you are, the more evil you are. And that extends to Hamas. In their view, since Hamas is the weaker of the two, then Hamas must be the victim, despite the fact that they’re rapists and kidnappers and degenerates. That plays out into the broader spectrum of the antisemitism attached to it. And you see the young students being harassed….

“Somebody’s paying for all this [protesting]. They all have signs that are pre-printed. They all have the same tents. I think it’s important to figure out who’s paying for all this. They’re mobs, and they’re taking over college campuses. It’s deeply concerning that we have a higher education in our country that has ingrained and instilled these ideas that Israel is a colonial power. It’s the same argument they use against America.” 

On the right of free speech and the next generation of leaders:

“Free speech is the ability to express your viewpoint on a political issue. But free speech can be regulated in terms of time, place, and manner. Free speech does not allow you to take over a college campus. Free speech does not allow you to threaten Jewish students, or anyone for that matter. And I would say that free speech does not cover someone in the United States on a student visa who’s openly in the street supporting a terrorist organization. Those visas should be revoked, and they should be removed from our country. 

“All of these things come into play. But think about this: a disproportionate number of our judges, our federal officials, our members of Congress, our presidents, come from these schools. If this is who’s going to be leading our country in 10 years, what do we think U.S.-Israeli politics or U.S. policy in general is going to look like?”

On indoctrination in American higher education:

“Why are we pouring billions of taxpayer dollars into institutions of higher education that are not educating? Education is about truth. And what we are seeing is not education. This is indoctrination. You have entire departments in these universities that are indoctrinating people in things that aren’t true. It’s stunning to me how many of these students will tell you that Israel was a country that basically was created because a bunch of European Jewish colonizers imposed themselves on this pre-existing nation-state called Palestine, which never existed. They believe that it did. They believe all these things and have fallen for this narrative. But their ultimate target is not just Israel, it’s America. 

“Again, I think we should be calling into question why we are funding these schools, pouring billions of dollars to pay for and then forgive the student loans of people that are being indoctrinated. I think it’s important that federal funding for these higher education institutions, especially those that are not doing enough to protect the safety of Jewish students on campus, should be conditioned and/or removed as a result. Beyond that, I think as a society, we need to ask ourselves, what are young Americans, our future leaders, being indoctrinated with in our higher education system? Because it’s anti-American and destructive to our republic, not to mention our alliances around the world. If it’s not truth, but indoctrination and fiction, why are we paying for this?”

On the antisemitic protests at American universities:

“What I say is that it’s important for all of us, Jews and non-Jews, to speak out against this antisemitism, to make sure we’re doing everything we can not just to condemn it, but to ensure that we’re providing environments where Jewish students don’t have to have to hide the fact that they’re Jewish and don’t feel threatened because of that. We wouldn’t tolerate that with any other group. We most certainly shouldn’t tolerate it with Jewish students, given the history of the ancient poison of antisemitism. 

“I’m very proud of the way Florida has handled this. The University of Florida, my alma mater—I’m very close to my former colleague, Ben Sasse, who leads it now as the president—has the highest student Jewish student population of any school in the country. It has not had incidents like this. In fact, it just announced how it will deal with incidents like this, including three-year suspensions and bans for any students that participate in anything they would view as antisemitic. I think that’s an example for the country. And I’m glad that in Florida, we haven’t seen it. We’ve had small groups here and there, but we haven’t seen it on a large scale. 

“It’s also important to remember one thing, and I point to this. There are a lot of students involved in this, but there are a lot of people that are not students that are involved in these efforts. These are professional agitators, anti-American, anti-Western, and global leftists who take advantage of these situations to spread their message. But I think it’s been an awakening about what’s happening underneath the surface in our country that we need to address. This is not just about Israel. Ultimately, this is about America.”