Although there have been no official polls, Rubio seems to be a strong favorite on the Israeli right, with prominent figures from different right-wing parties coming out in support of the senator.
J. Philip Rosen, the former chairman of the board of American Friends of Likud and a member of the Republican Jewish Coalition’s board, endorsed the senator, saying, “It is becoming increasingly clear that Marco Rubio is the candidate who can and will beat Hillary/Bernie.”
Rosen called Democratic hopeful Hillary Clinton a “crook” and said that Bernie Sanders would push for the creation of a Palestinian state that would turn into “a terrorist regime led by Hamas, Hezbollah, ISIS and its cohorts miles … from Israel’s major cities.”
Billionaire Sheldon Adelson, meanwhile, has indicated his support for Rubio. Adelson, who is Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s primary backer, owns Israel Hayom, Israel’s government mouthpiece and most-read daily, which has extensively covered Rubio’s campaign. Adelson’s other newspaper, the Las Vegas Review-Journal, endorsed Rubio last week.
Although Adelson and his wife Miriam each donated the maximum permitted donation of $2,700 to Rubio in December, they also donated the same to Texas Sen. Ted Cruz last week. Adelson allegedly supports Rubio while his wife prefers Cruz.
A senior official of Israel’s ruling Likud party said he too prefers Rubio but that Cruz would be also be a good result for Israel.
“Of course we prefer Republicans over Democrats,” the Likud official said. “The Likud and the Republicans have a lot in common, ideologically.”
Likud isn’t the only rightwing Israeli party that seems to be in Rubio’s camp.
The Post noted that Jeremy Saltan, Bayit Yehudi’s Anglo Forum chairman and a close political adviser to Education Minister Naftali Bennett, said he would consider Rubio “one of the top choices.”
“This is a candidate who [uses the ancient Biblical term] ‘Judea and Samaria’ instead of ‘West Bank,’ and recognizes that the capital of Israel is Jerusalem and that is where the U.S. Embassy should stand,” Saltan said.
Rubio had pledged that if elected he would move the embassy from its current location in Tel Aviv to Israel’s capital.
“The senator said that Israel is a priority to him and his pledge that Israel will be his first visit as president shows that.
“Rubio’s strong national security policies are very close to the ideology of many Bayit Yehudi voters,” added Saltan.
Earlier this year, Marc Zell, co-chairman of Republicans Abroad Israel and worldwide vice-president of Republicans Overseas, endorsed Rubio and said that many Israelis shared this support, not least because the Florida senator is “extremely knowledgeable about foreign policy” and has a “strategic appreciation for Israel’s role in the region, the alliance between the US and Israel, and the common values we share as democracies in the Judeo-Christian tradition.”
Zell added, “Of all the candidates in either party, he knows the most. His analysis of the situation in the Middle East is spot-on and I think Israelis – and they don’t have to be rightwing [in Israeli politics] – like Rubio because he is in favor of a strong US foreign policy, with an analytically sound basis for understanding the region.
“That’s really what people are attracted to,” he said.
According to the Post, Zell compared Rubio to president John F. Kennedy, being young and “attractive physically and in terms of the freshness of his views and very articulate,” but added: “I think he’s a lot more responsible than JFK, who was a womanizer and had moral problems that Rubio doesn’t have.”
Asked why other leading Republican candidates don’t seem to have the same support in Israel, Zell said “they are very populist and demagogic, and Israelis and Jews generally react negatively to those kinds of public figures and personalities, with good reason. We’ve had experience with those types.”