Many Republican candidates were unhappy with the announcement that the U.S. and Cuba will be opening embassies as part of the normalization process, but Ted Cruz wins the prize for the most absurd reaction:
Following the announcement by President Obama that the United States will open an embassy in Cuba, thereby taking a final step to forming normal relations with the Castro regime, Texas Senator Ted Cruz slammed the decision as a “slap in the face of Israel.”
Opening an embassy in Havana has nothing to do with Israel one way or the other, so it’s curious that Cruz wants to link it to the question of where the U.S. embassy in Israel should be located. I suppose Cruz wants to use the “pro-Israel” rhetoric to deflect attention from the fact that he opposes the restoration of ties with Cuba, which is broadly popular across in the U.S. regardless of party affiliation, but if so it’s not a very smart objection. The U.S. doesn’t (yet) acknowledge Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, and so it shouldn’t relocate its embassy to the city before the outstanding issues regarding the city’s status have been resolved.
Cruz’s real objection here is to normalization of relations with Cuba, which would necessarily involve opening an embassy as part of having full diplomatic relations. He doesn’t want the normalization to proceed, but there aren’t actually any good arguments why it shouldn’t. His pretense that he “stands” with the people of Cuba by opposing normalization is risible. Almost all Cubans welcome better relations between the U.S. and Cuba. A broad majority of Americans supports the same thing. Cruz is rejecting what Cubans and Americans say they want. The reference to Israel is a ridiculous attempt to distract from the main issue, which is that Cruz is opposed to something that the vast majority in both countries favors.
The other part of Cruz’s statement that stands out is his fixation on this idea that opening an embassy is a “reward” to the Cuban government, as if we are doing it a favor by increasing U.S. influence in the island. Establishing normal relations isn’t a “reward” to the other government, but offers our government the chance to secure and advance U.S. interests in the other country. It is also possible that establishing normal relations with another state can help to improve understanding and communication between the two nations involved, but that is not the primary purpose of establishing those relations. For some reason, Cruz doesn’t want the U.S. to have that chance to secure its interests, but would prefer instead to hang on to a decades-old antagonism that has done nothing but harm to both countries.