Tuesday, February 17, 2015
Rubio To Colleagues: Don't Boycott Netanyahu Speech, Israel Deserves Our Support
Mr. RUBIO. Madam President, are we on the Carter nomination?
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Sen-
ator is correct.
Mr. RUBIO. Madam President, this is an important nomination, at a time when this country faces very signifi- cant national security threats.
As I commented yesterday, the Presi- dent came to us yesterday asking us to authorize the use of force, and I think we should do that. I am not necessarily sure we should do it in the way he has asked us to do it. I think it should be a pretty straightforward authorization, and here is what it should say. It should say we authorize the President of the United States to destroy ISIS and to defeat their military. It is up to the Commander in Chief to decide the right way in which to do that.
I have very serious concerns and very
serious reservations about our current strategy when it comes to ISIS. I am not sure it is sufficient. I think it is a strategy that will contain them but will not defeat them. In fact, ISIS is now popping up, for example, in Libya, where they have a very significant hub. They have a very significant presence in Benghazi. Just a few days ago they carried out an attack in Tripoli. We are now hearing media reports that ISIS has a presence in Afghanistan, perhaps even terrorist training camps.
So they continue to grow their affili-
ates, they continue to grow their pres- ence, and we need an authorization of the use of force that allows us to defeat them anywhere in the world where they are to be found.
The President's suggestion has been
well received. We thank him for sub- mitting one. But now it is the responsi- bility of the Senate to do its job and to write one of its own. It may reflect many of the things the President wants, but what I believe it should re- flect more than anything else is that we authorize him to defeat ISIS no matter what it takes and no matter how long it takes. If we have problems with the President's strategy, there are different ways to address it. I do have problems with the strategy and I want that to be addressed.
Mr. Carter's nomination comes at an- other important moment. In that same region of the world, one of America's strongest allies and its very existence is under attack. Of course I am talking about Israel, the Jewish State-an ex- traordinary story in the history of the world. Here is a country founded after the end of World War II as a homeland for the Jewish people so that never again-never again-would they have nowhere to go if they faced the sorts of oppression, the sort of genocide they faced during the Holocaust.
Since that time the Jewish State has
had an extraordinary story. From an economic perspective, it is a vibrant, first-rate country with a first-rate economy. What is most interesting is this is not a country with oil or a coun- try with vast supplies of natural gas.
This is not a country that is an agri- cultural superpower, yet it has a world- class economy providing prosperity and upward mobility to millions of its peo- ple, and it has done so on the basis of innovation.
There is a very good book recently written called ''Start-up Nation'' that talks about the extraordinary story of Israel.
It is also a very vibrant democracy- in fact, observers of Israeli politics often joke perhaps a little too vibrant. They have heated debates. But it is a democracy.
So what we have here is a democratic nation with a vibrant free enterprise economy in the middle of the Middle East.
Israel is everything we want that re- gion of the world to become. We wish every nation in that region were a real democracy, a vibrant one. We wish every nation in that part of the world had a first-rate economy that provided upward mobility to everyone. And we wish every nation in the Middle East was as strong an ally of the United States as Israel has been.
This is the extraordinary story of this small but important nation, and this country must continue to be their strongest ally in the world. But they face extraordinary threats to their safety, to their security, and to their existence.
It begins with what I believe is a con- certed effort around the world-includ- ing in American academia, including in the universities of this very country- to delegitimize Israel's right to exist and its right to exist as a Jewish state, and it is an outrage.
It continues with the growth of anti- Semitism all over the world, increas- ingly in Europe. Every day we see sto- ries of a mass exodus as more and more Jews are leaving Europe because of the growth of anti-Semitism.
We saw what happened in Paris-not just the attack that happened but how Jews were deliberately targeted for death by terrorists. It was not a ran- dom attack. It was a deliberate act to target Jews. It was a deliberate act of violence in the furtherance of anti- Semitism.
In every international body in the world, Israel is often the target of scorn and criticism, without any con- sideration whatsoever to what its en- emies intend to do to them. And now perhaps the greatest risk of all is to its very existence from the threat of an Iranian nuclear program.
I, like everybody else, wish that I would wake up tomorrow morning to the news that the Ayatollah had come to his senses and realized Iran cannot continue down its path; that they have given up their nuclear weapons ambi- tion; that they have given up spon- soring terrorism all over the world; that they have given up their anti- Israeli, anti-Semitic rhetoric; that they have given up oppressing their own people. But I know that is not going to happen because Iran is not
governed by a normal leader the way we would consider a leader of a nation. Iran is governed by a radical shia cler- ic-a radical shia cleric who believes he is not only the head of Iran, he believes he is the head of all Islam everywhere in the world. Iran is where he lives. Iran is where he is based. But Iran is not what he believes is his domain; he believes every Muslim on the planet under the Sun is under his control and leadership.
But here is the scariest thing he be-
lieves: He believes it is his job to trig- ger an apocalyptic showdown between the Muslim and non-Muslim world be- cause that would bring about the emer- gence of the 13th Imam-the Hidden Imam, the Mahdi, as they call him- who will then come and govern the en- tire world under the flag of Islam-his version of radical Islam. We may say that stuff sounds a little far-fetched. That is what he believes. That is what he passionately and legitimately be- lieves.
So when someone wants to trigger an
apocalyptic showdown between the Muslim and non-Muslim world, when someone says they want to destroy the State of Israel, wipe it off the face of the Earth, and that person is trying to acquire nuclear weapons capabilities, we had better be very concerned, and we had better conclude that is an unac- ceptable risk for us to take. It is par- ticularly scary for Israel because they are closer to Iran than we are. They are in their crosshairs both verbally and militarily.
The administration would have us be-
lieve that we are in the midst of this negotiation and hopefully we will delay the Iranian nuclear program or extend the amount of time they would need to break out. Let me break it to everyone: They are not going to break out. They are going to sneak out. They will con- coct some sort of excuse at some point in the future as to why they need a nu- clear weapons program.
Let me begin by saying that Iran is
an oil-rich nation. They have no need for civilian nuclear power. But if they want one, they can have it, like most of the other countries in the world do, by importing enriched uranium or re- processed plutonium and using it for their reactors for peaceful purposes. But instead they insist on the ability to enrich and reprocess, and there is only one reason why they would insist on that-because they want the infra- structure necessary to one day build a weapon when they decide they need it. But don't take my word for it. That is not the only thing they are doing. There are two other aspects of their program that aren't even being dis-
The first is that they continue to de- velop long-range rockets. Why do they need intercontinental missiles? Why do they need long-range rockets? They don't need them for conventional pur- poses. They don't put a conventional warhead-they don't spend all the time and energy and money that it takes to
build that capacity to bomb someone with a conventional weapon. There is only one reason to build long-range rockets such as those, and that is to put a nuclear warhead on them. That is not being discussed in these negotia- tions, and they continue to make unabated progress toward their long- range rocket capabilities.
The other is a weapons design. The
three things they need for a nuclear weapons program: a weapons design, long-range rockets, and the ability to enrich and reprocess. They are already building the rockets. The weapons de- sign they can literally buy from dozens of people around the world who will sell it to them. And the reprocessing? Even under the deal the President is asking for, if it went down exactly the way the President is asking for, they would still keep all the infrastructure, all the things that it takes to enrich to weapons-grade. They would have all the equipment, all the scientists, all the infrastructure.
Here is one more point. Iran has al-
ways had a secret component to their nuclear program. They have always had some secret component to their program. And I would venture to guess that right now they have a secret com- ponent to their program as well that we do not know about.
That is why I have little hope in this
deal, and that is why Prime Minister Netanyahu is so concerned about the deal. See, he doesn't have the luxury of living an illusion. He doesn't have the luxury of pretending that somehow we can work this out, as if somehow we are negotiating with Luxembourg or Belgium. He knows the neighborhood he lives in, and he knows his enemy. He knows their true nature. He knows their true intentions. And it is his obli- gation not just to protect his people but to fight for that nation's very ex- istence. So he has chosen to come be- fore the Congress at the invitation of the Speaker. I am glad he has accepted his invitation, and I think we owe him the courtesy to hear what he has to say.
I want you to go back and look at the
United Nations rollcall votes. Time and again, when the interests of this coun- try are being challenged around the world, I want you to see how many times Israel is one of the few coun- tries-often the only country-that vote with the United States of America in that international forum. I want you to see all the times that the Israelis have stood with America on issue after issue around the world.
I also want you to think about what
it says about us as a nation if we are not prepared to make it very clear that before anything else, we are the friends of our allies. What does it say to our other allies around the world, to other nations in other parts of the world that are counting on the American security guarantee for their own existence and their own security, what does it say to Japan and to South Korea and to our allies in NATO if the United States is
prepared to create daylight between us and the State of Israel?
That is exactly the message people
will get-that there is a division be- tween us and Israel-if, in fact, Mem- bers of Congress carry through on their threat to boycott the Prime Minister's speech before Congress on the 3rd of March. If a significant number of Mem- bers of the Senate and the House boy- cott his speech, that message will be heard not only by Israel's enemies but also by our allies. And the message will be twofold-one, that America is no longer firmly on the side of Israel as it once was, and two, that America is an unreliable ally; look what they just did to Israel.
I think everyone has the right to go
or not go to any speech they want, but I hope my colleagues who are thinking about not going will reconsider. You may not like the way this went down. You may not like the fact that the Speaker did it the way he did it. That is your choice. But I want you to think about the implications beyond that. I want you to think about the implica- tions this leaves on Israel. I want you to think about the message this sends to Israel's enemies because what we have seen decade after decade is that anytime Israel's enemies get the per- ception that somehow America is no longer as committed to Israel's secu- rity as it once was, it emboldens them to attack Israel, and Israel has no shortage of enemies that want to not just attack them but destroy them. We have seen what Hamas has done. We have seen what Hezbollah has done. We have seen what Iran wants to do and is doing.
If you boycott this speech, if a sig-
nificant number of Members of Con- gress boycott this speech, you will send an incredibly powerful message to Israel's enemies. So I hope you will re- consider.
I don't question anyone's commit-
ment on this issue. I believe there are supporters of Israel who won't attend the speech because they think it is dis- respectful to the President. This is a lot bigger than that. We are talking about the existence of this nation. We are talking about whether people in that nation will survive in 20 years or
15 years. That is how important and monumental this moment is.
I am not claiming that by you not at-
tending the speech, somehow that is going to lead to Israel's destruction. I am claiming that if you boycott this speech, you will send a message to Israel's enemies that could embolden them, and I hope you will reconsider that position.
I find it quite frankly outrageous
that reports are that the White House has asked Members of Congress to boy- cott the speech. I find it outrageous that the Vice President of the United States-the Vice President-has de- cided to boycott that speech. I find it outrageous, for example, that on the one hand we are more than glad to send administration officials at the highest
levels to sit down and meet repeatedly with the highest ranking officials that Iran will send, but our strongest ally's Prime Minister is coming to Wash- ington and they won't even meet with him? One of our strongest ally's Prime Minister wants to speak before the Congress and they won't even attend the speech? What do you think the headlines will be read as in Iran, by the terrorists in Gaza, by the terrorists in Judea and Samaria, by the terrorists in all parts of the world, such as in Leb- anon, who want to destroy Israel? What do you think they are going to read into it? What they are going to read into it, unfortunately, is that somehow Congress's commitment to the future security of Israel is not as strong as it once was. And I fear what the implica- tions of that will be. We should not take this lightly.
I can think of no nation on Earth
that needs our help more right now than Israel, and I can think of no peo- ple on Earth who deserve our support more than they do. As I said earlier, they are a reliable, strong, committed ally of this Nation. We have strong links to them on personal, cultural, po- litical, and economic levels. They have stood by us time and again in inter- national forums when America's inter- ests have been challenged. They are ev- erything we want the Middle East to look like in the future-free, pros- perous, democratic, aligned with Amer- ica, peace-loving, desirous of a better future. What more do you want? What more could they do? What else could they be for us to be any stronger an ally of theirs than we should be or are right now? Yet there are people who are talking about boycotting the speech to protest because their feelings are hurt, because they are upset about the way it went down, because they don't like the way it was scheduled, be- cause it was disrespectful to the Presi- dent.
You have the right to voice your con-
cerns, but don't do this to an ally. Don't do this to a nation that is as threatened today as it has ever been at any time in its existence. Don't do this to a people who are in the crosshairs of multiple terrorist groups with the ca- pability of attacking them. Don't do this to a nation whose civilians are ter- rorized by thousands of rockets launched against them at a moment's notice. Don't do this to a country that is facing down the threat of a nuclear weapon annihilating them off the face of the Earth. Don't do this to a people who are being stigmatized all over the world even as we speak, who are being oppressed. Don't do this to a country that in forum after forum has become the subject of delegitimization, as peo- ple argue that somehow Israel's right to exist is not real. Don't do this to them.
I hope my colleagues will reconsider
their decision to not attend. This is an important speech. It is the Prime Min- ister's choice, obviously. He must al- ways act in the best interests of his na-
tion and his people. But I hope he will speak to us on March 3, and I hope he will speak to us clearly. I hope that through his speech he will open the eyes of this Congress and the American people that this is not child's play, that what Iran intends to have is not just a nuclear weapon to destroy Israel but ultimately to terrorize the world. I hope he will speak to us bluntly about the true nature of this threat.
I know there is a lot going on in the world, but there is no greater threat to the long-term security of the planet than the Iranian nuclear ambition. No people and no nation on Earth know that better than the people of Israel, and no leader on Earth understands that better than Prime Minister Netanyahu.
I think after years of commitment to this alliance, after the bravery he has shown in his time in office and the bravery the Jewish people of Israel have shown in defending their nation's right to exist after being attacked mul- tiple times throughout their history and even to this modern day, they de- serve our unambiguous support. Of course, there are differences between allies. There always have been and al- ways will be.
If we won't stand for Israel, for whom will we stand? If the United States of America will not defend its ally, whom will we defend? What message do we send to our alliances across the planet and what message do we send to our enemies and Israel's enemies?
I hope cooler heads will prevail. I hope Members of the House and Senate who have announced they are boy- cotting will reconsider. I hope we will all be there, if we can, to hear what the Prime Minister has to say the first week in March.