Where is the GOP Outrage about Rubio’s Israel Snub?

During his State of the Union address, President Barack Obama reiterated his firm support for the State of Israel and his commitment to preventing a nuclear-armed Iran. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), who delivered the Republican Party’s official rebuttal, omitted any mention of Israel or Iran from his speech. Quite simply, the Republican Party’s State of the Union response snubbed Israel, and NJDC called them out for it.

We didn’t question the GOP’s commitment to Israel or make allegations of anti-Israel bias within the party. All NJDC did was urge Republicans to “support President Obama and his strong leadership on these important issues — or at least mention them when they choose to give a broad national address.”

However, what would happen if the situation were reversed? What if a Democrat said nothing about the U.S.-Israel relationship or missed this particular opportunity to convey unity on stopping Iran’s nuclear program? Based on the Republicans’ history, we can assume they would have behaved as follows:

  • Republicans would be shouting at the top of their lungs about how Israel had been “thrown under the bus,” “delegitimized,” “insulted,” or even “abandoned.” Worse, the President’s personal and deep commitment to Israel would be attacked, with some Republicans recycling the “most anti-Israel President” and “deep hostility towards Israel” lines throughout our community. In addition, some fringe Republican would make headlines by falsely comparing the President to Jimmy Carter or invoking Reverend Wright or by screaming and yelling about how the President of the United States stands with the terrorists and Israel’s enemies.
  • Republicans would run full-page ads in The New York TimesThe Washington Post, and The Wall Street Journal slamming the President, repeating the same false attacks on his record and the same baseless attacks on his character.
  •  Republicans would plaster their smears on billboards, bus shelters, yard signs, bumper stickers, t-shirts, buttons, kippot — pretty much any available surface that could be seen by another person.
  • And, Republicans would put together a YouTube video that repeated all of the same smears that were used during the election. The predictable doom and gloom theme would be present in the video, and it may very well be turned into a TV advertisement. They would also cut robocalls and radio ads that dishonestly combine unrelated statements by the President and the Israeli Prime Minister that get immediately debunked by nonpartisan journalists.

You may think I’m exaggerating, but far too many of these reactions actually took place over the last four years. The Republican Party has demonstrated throughout the Obama Presidency that it will not miss an opportunity to spread falsehoods and distortions about President Obama’s Israel record or use Israel as a political football.

As Israeli and pro-Israel leaders have consistently noted, it is important that we maintain the bipartisan nature of the U.S.-Israel relationship. After all of the pro-Israel actions taken by the President during his first term, including leadership in preventing a nuclear-armed Iran, unprecedented military assistance to Israel, support for the Iron Dome defense system, and defending Israel’s legitimacy on the world stage, it’s time for Republicans to quit their smear campaign and come together behind the President.

But, in the meantime, we’re going to continue to call them out.

About the Author
Aaron Keyak is an experienced publicist and a leader in fighting for both the progressive and pro-Israel communities, in political campaigns as well as on Capitol Hill. Aaron previously served as the communications director for Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.), a leading pro-Israel progressive who represented the highest percentage of Jewish Americans in the United States. Aaron also advised the congressman on Middle East policy, and led the messaging strategy around the congressman’s top priorities including on issues ranging from a woman’s right to choose and the fight for LGBT rights to strengthening the U.S.-Israel relationship and fighting anti-Semitism. Aaron also spearheaded the drafting, coalition building and legislative negotiations surrounding a timely congressional resolution condemning the rising tide of anti-Semitism throughout the world in 2014, which passed the House unanimously. Immediately following President Obama’s re-election in 2012, Aaron became the interim executive director for the National Jewish Democratic Council (NJDC). During the election he headed the campaign media Hub, a rapid-response research and media outreach team that promoted President Obama’s message around foreign policy issues and to the Jewish community. Prior to leading the Hub, he served as the communications director and top Middle East adviser for former Rep. Steve Rothman (D-N.J.), also serving on the congressman’s campaign – including a multimillion-dollar, nationally targeted primary campaign. When he started with Congressman Rothman, Aaron was the youngest communications director on Capitol Hill. Aaron led the messaging, press and political strategy in support of Congressman Rothman’s early championing of Israel’s lifesaving defense program, Iron Dome, as well as the congressman’s outspoken advocacy for U.S.-Israel joint missile defense programs, David’s Sling, Arrow 2 and Arrow 3. Aaron also helped assist the congressman in his role as a member of the House Appropriations Foreign Operations and State Subcommittee, which appropriates all U.S. foreign aid. During the 2008 election and for the first year of President Obama’s term, Aaron led NJDC’s press operations. While at NJDC, he was recognized as one of the top political pundits on Twitter by The Hill and was named a leader in “steering conversation about Jewish life on Twitter” by JTA. Aaron got his professional start in Washington as an associate at Rabinowitz/Dorf Communications. Aaron received his bachelor’s degree with honors from Washington University in St. Louis and is a Truman National Security Project scholar, trained in defense, foreign policy and national security issues.