Rubio, on Mideast trip, says Jerusalem is Israel's capital
Sen. Marco Rubio told Israeli leaders Wednesday he was glad President Barack Obama would be visiting the Jewish state this spring, and waded into the politically sensitive subject of Jerusalem's status as the capital of Israel.
Ahead of his meeting with Israeli President Shimon Peres in Jerusalem, Rubio said of the city, "Of course the capital of your country but the spiritual capital of million around the world."
American policy has long been intentionally vague on the status of Jerusalem. A U.S. law passed in 1995 designates Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, and stipulates the American embassy should move to the city from Tel Aviv. The past three presidents, however, have signed waivers suspending the law, citing security and diplomatic concerns.
Israelis consider Jerusalem the capital of their country, but Palestinians also claim rights to the city as the capital of a future independent state. The status of the city is designated for final negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians.
On Wednesday, Rubio stressed the importance of the U.S.-Israel relationship, and said both Democrats and Republicans were united in supporting the country.
"At a time when few things unite Democrats and Republicans in Washington, I'm pleased that Israel is one of them and excited about the fact that the president will visit here in March and it will be a very productive visit," Rubio said.
In a meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Rubio also hailed the relationship between the United States and Israel.
"You live in a challenging neighborhood, but the Israeli-American relationship is one of the most important ones we have, and certainly our commitment to that partnership is bipartisan and it should remain that way," the Florida Republican told Benjamin Netanyahu during a meeting in Jerusalem. "And that's why I'm pleased the president is coming here in March."
Netanyahu told Rubio that he appreciated "the tremendous support of the American people, bipartisan support for our security and our quest for peace."
"It's a daunting task, both security and the quest for peace, but we know we have your support and we appreciate it. I look forward to talking with you about our challenges," Netanyahu continued.
The prime minster's office posted a video with the brief exchange between the two politicians on its official YouTube page.
Rubio is midway through a trip through the region that started in Jordan. In addition to meeting with Netanyahu, Rubio was also slated to sit down with Israeli President Shimon Peres and Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad. In Jordan, he will meet with King Abdullah.
Rubio serves on both the Senate Intelligence and Foreign Relations committees and said before his trip that he planned to speak with the Israeli leaders about the peace process with Palestinians and Egypt.
"America's friendship with Israel is a truly special one, and we must continue to do all we can to support this beacon of democracy, religious freedom and free enterprise in the heart of an unstable region," Rubio said in a statement on Saturday announcing his trip. "As Iran continues its pursuit of a nuclear weapon, we must continue to apply pressure through every possible means in order to prevent a nuclear Iran."
In Jordan, he is "interested in learning more firsthand about the impact the Syrian civil war and how the humanitarian crisis that has resulted is impacting Jordan and the region."
Rubio said his wife Jeanette would accompany him on the trip but not at taxpayer expense. He has previously visited Israel.
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