Trump, Rubio, and Israel-Palestine
Last week, Trump gave an evasive answer on Israel-Palestine in which he said, “Let me be sort of a neutral guy.” This week, Rubio is trying to use this line against him:
Rubio criticizes Trump for vowing neutrality in Israel vs. Palestine. “There is no such thing as an honest broker in that,” Rubio says.
— Patrick Svitek (@PatrickSvitek) February 24, 2016
This isn’t the first time Rubio has criticized Trump on Israel. Back in December, he attacked Trump for saying that Israel might have to make sacrifices to secure a peace agreement. Trump’s statements are actually not very remarkable, and it shows just how ideological and reflexively hawkish Rubio is on foreign policy issues that he considers these statements to be unacceptable. For example, take the statement from last week about Trump’s supposed neutrality. Trump was at pains to present himself as a deal-maker, and for that reason he didn’t want to get into details about who was at fault for what:
If I win, I don’t want to be in a position where I’m saying to you [my choice] and the other side now says, ‘We don’t want Trump involved.’
It probably didn’t hurt that this allowed him to avoid talking about specifics, but the point is that Trump is always dodging these questions on the grounds that he says he doesn’t want others to know what he would do. In this case, he said he didn’t want to take a public position that would make negotiations more difficult down the road. That doesn’t mean that he doesn’t have a bias in favor of one side or the other. It seems obvious from his rhetoric about the nuclear deal and other issues that he can be just as unthinkingly “pro-Israel” in most respects as any other candidate, but for whatever reason he doesn’t seem to feel the need to declare his undying support every time the subject comes up.
Rubio’s criticism is unintentionally revealing in another way. He says that “there is no such thing as an honest broker,” and in this case that’s true. The U.S. hasn’t been an honest broker between Israel and the Palestinians for decades, and has overwhelmingly favored one side in the conflict all along. Rubio thinks that’s a good thing that needs to be maintained. Trump is at least paying lip service to the idea that securing a peace settlement requires some pretense of even-handedness. It doesn’t follow from this that Trump would actually do anything to pursue such a settlement or that he would have any success in negotiating one if he did, but it reminds us that Rubio has absolutely no interest in it and sees even the slightest rhetorical nod in favor of negotiating peace as something to be denounced.