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ICYMI: Rubio Speaks to AIPAC Florida Delegation

Mar 12, 2024 | Press Releases

U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) spoke to the Florida delegation of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) on the Israel-Hamas war and the international threat posed by Iran.

  • “Even as we provide assistance to Israel to ensure that they can continue to defend themselves and to defeat their enemies, we have to recognize that the broader problem here, the head of this snake, is in Tehran. Until that problem is confronted, and we accept it for what it is, we can’t truly begin to solve it. – Senator Rubio

Click here for video and read a transcript below:

There’s good news and bad news. Let’s start with the bad news. The bad news is, you’re having to witness a sort of back and forth. Funding for Israel is tied up in this broader border [issue]. 

The border is a significant issue. Yesterday, we had the director of the FBI in front of the Intelligence Committee, and I said: “Do any of these groups around the world that traffic people have links to terrorist [groups] like ISIS or Hezbollah?” And he said: “Yes. I have to be careful what I say, but there’s one in particular that we’re very concerned about, which has facilitators who have links to ISIS.

ISIS owns a trafficking network. They probably use it to move people around and make money, but they’ll also use it to move terrorists. And we know for a fact, as I speak to you here now, that they’re trying to kill Americans. We’ve already had two indictments of people that are trying to hire assassins to kill Mike Pompeo, John Bolton, President Trump, and others. 

Iran is trying to create and conduct assassinations inside the United States. For the life of me, I don’t know how you can be sitting at any table anywhere in the world with these people negotiating anything when they’re trying to assassinate people here in the country. We’re tied up in the back and forth about that. So that’s the bad news. 

Here’s the good news: I think [Israel aid] is going to happen. There’s too much strong bipartisan support [for it not to]. It’s just a question of the mechanism by which it happens. 

Next week, the whole week is going to be like Groundhog Day for us. It’s going to be the same as last week. The House is supposed to pass the second half of the appropriations bills on Wednesday. They’ll send it to us on Thursday. We’ll have to vote on it on Thursday or Friday. And then after that passes, I think you’ll see more focus on supplemental spending. 

The other piece of good news is the funding. We have to authorize the spending, and the spending has already been authorized. It’s [been] authorized by law for ten years. The memorandum of understanding between the U.S. and Israel is codified. We codified it, I think, two years ago. There was a bill that I sponsored along with Senator Coons. So the administration continues to have the authority [to send funding to Israel]. 

The way [the bill] is written, [the administration] can actually pull forward future years’ authorizations. The problem is, if you’re borrowing from the future, these weapon needs are still going to be there down the road. We’re still going to have to do something eventually. But it’s why it hasn’t reached that sense of urgency yet. 

I will raise one more point, and that is, we have to increasingly make sure the aid is not conditioned. “We support you to win this war, but you can’t do the things it’s going to take to win the war.” The truth of the matter is, the longer it takes for them to go into some of these places they need to go to achieve the strategic objectives, the more suffering there is going to be. The longer Hamas is allowed to be a functioning entity with the capability to conduct attacks, the more suffering there is going to be across the board. 

Why are we prolonging things? This is unnecessary. But in an effort to appease competing political interests in American politics there, we’re in this inconsistent position. “You do things that you need to do to win. And if you do those things, then we’re going to limit the weaponry that we provide you.” 

The good news is, I think something will happen. The good news is, it’s already codified. We still have some time. The bad news is that we have to keep an eye on it, as it hasn’t happened yet. And we have to make sure that there’s safeguards against it being conditioned in a way that I think undermines the goal we all have, which is for this to end quickly, with the defeat of Hamas as an entity that can do what it did on the 7th of October. 

A mistake a lot of people are making is to view this as just the latest chapter in a Israeli-Palestinian conflict. This is much broader than that. At the source of all of this is one simple driver, and that is, Iran wants to spread their Shia Islamic revolution throughout the region. You can see how they’re trying to achieve it objectively. 

There are two things standing in the way of Iran achieving their regional dominance. The first is Israel, because they can’t defeat Israel in a [frontal] war. The second is the presence of the United States in the region. 

If the Iranians were here now, and they were to share with us their strategy, what they would say is, “Let’s use these militia groups that we sponsor in Syria, in Iraq, in Yemen, in the West Bank, in Gaza, and across the region. Let’s use these groups to attack Israel and attack America.” What they hope is that America will say: “The Middle East is too problematic. We need to get out of there. We need to remove ourselves from Jordan. We need to remove ourselves from Iraq, from Syria. We need to get out of there.” 

Once we are gone, then the Iranians can now use Syria and Iraq to target Jordan, and they will go in and take Jordan, and once they take over Jordan and undermine Jordan, then their goal would be to make Israel an unlivable place. 

Their goal is not to defeat the Israeli military frontally, but to make Israel a place you just can’t live, because you’re constantly being attacked, from all sides, by multiple different groups, all who have different causes, but are all united by the goal of the destruction of the Jewish state. [Iran’s goal is] to make Israel an unlivable place with an economy that doesn’t function, with a government with no revenue because its economy doesn’t function. A place where people no longer want to visit or can no longer live. That’s what their goal is, and once that happens, they will achieve the strategic objective that unites all of them. That is, to have a zone “from the river to the sea” with no Jews, as they like to say.

That’s what their goal is, and they won’t stop there. They want Bahrain. They want the UAE. They want the other Gulf Kingdoms. Let’s say they make Israel unlivable, and it collapses. They drive America out. They take Lebanon. They take Syria. They take Iraq. What I mean by “take” is, maybe they’re not the government of that place, but they control whoever the government of that place is. Now, they have become a regional power. That is their goal, and that’s what’s behind all of this. 

Hamas does not have weapons, and Hamas does not have the resources [without Iran]. They don’t have the money, the millions of dollars, to build these tunnels. Those millions of dollars do not go to hospitals, they did not go to farming, did not go to build an economy, did not go to schools. [Hamas] spent millions and millions of dollars building a tunnel network. Where do they get all this money from? The answer is, from Iran. 

Where are the Houthis getting these weapons that they have now? This is a band of pirates, basically, who have advanced weaponry. Where do [the Houthis] have the overhead imagery and the geolocation technology to find where ships are and to attack them? The Chinese, by the way, have great rates on their insurance, because their ships aren’t being attacked, but everybody else’s ships are being attacked. The price of goods all over the world is going to go up because of a band of pirates who have somehow gotten access to one-way UAVs and guided missiles with long-range capabilities to threaten global shipping in the Red Sea. All of it is provided by Iran. 

Hezbollah is an agent of Iran, and Hamas is the same thing. October 7th was a horrifying day, but it’s just one element of a much broader strategy, and we have to come to grips with that as policymakers up here. 

Iran’s ambition goes far beyond simply supporting these groups and what they call the “axis of resistance.” [Iran’s goal] is to drive America out of the region, destroy the Jewish state, and become the dominant regional power. It’s how they envision themselves, and we have to accept that is at the core of everything that’s happening. If there were not these radical Shia clerics in Tehran, none of these other problems would be at the level that they’re at right now, and all of them would be much easier to fix. That is at the core of all of our challenges that we face in that part [of the world] today. 

Even as we provide assistance to Israel to ensure that they can continue to defend themselves and to defeat their enemies, we have to recognize that the broader problem here, the head of this snake, is in Tehran, and until that problem is confronted, and we accept it for what it is, we can’t truly begin to solve it. 

There’s extraordinary challenges in this regard, because the Iranians have continued to develop long-range missiles with capabilities to reach Europe and all of the Middle East, and one day they’ll be able to threaten America. If they continue to move at the pace they are right now, they will one day possess, and I don’t mean one day 20 years from now, I mean one day perhaps before the end of this decade, intercontinental ballistic missiles with the capability of reaching the continental United States, and become immune to pressure. [In that case,] they can do anything they want, because they can threaten with a nuclear strike. These are very tenuous times.

We can go into all the details that everybody has their own opinions on here about different aspects that keep coming up. No matter how much the administration or others like to talk about things like two-state solutions, you have to ask yourself, “Who would run that second state?” Right now, the only choices are groups that want the destruction of the Jewish state. 

That’s a pretty tough thing to ask people to agree to, [a two-state solution] where you turn over sovereignty and land to people who will use it, as they’ve always used land that they’ve acquired, to launch attacks against you and try to kill your civilians. It’s a tough time, and it’s one that requires some seriousness in how we approach this. It really isn’t one that can become politicized. 

I do want to share one more thing, because it’s in the vein of everything we’ve discussed. The support that Israel enjoys in Congress today is the product of 20 or 30 years of work. You see strong bipartisan support [for Israel] that I hope will continue. But what is public policy in America going to look like 20 years from now? Maybe I should say ten or even five. 

If you want to know what public policy in America is going to look like in five to ten years, you need to go to a college campus, because those people are going to graduate, and they’re going to run for office, or they’re going to graduate and run businesses, or they’re going to graduate and become staffers. 

We already have members of the permanent bureaucracy who have signed on to letters, anonymously, by the way, because they are cowards, about how we’re supporting genocide. But these people will continue to climb. Eventually, one of them will probably be nominated to be a Secretary of State or a Secretary of Defense, and we won’t even know they signed the letter, because they signed it anonymously. 

But if you want to know what the future of American public policy looks like, it’s graduating from our schools right now. And not just any schools, but the most elite schools in the country, the ones that are supposed to be producing our future leaders. Which makes you wonder whether we need to pick some different schools to be our elite schools. 

I also want to make you understand the challenge before us. At the State of the Union, the president was about 15 minutes late. One of the reasons why he was 15 minutes late is because of a bunch of protesters. Hamas supporters tried to block the motorcade. I told people there’s no excuse for being late, because he has a helicopter. He could just fly here. But he chose to drive through that. Yesterday, we had a bunch of disruptions in the intelligence community. Not a week goes by that we don’t have people in the hallways. 

People can express themselves any way they want. But the one that really burns me is people that are in this country on a visa, and they’re supporters of Hamas. If you showed up somewhere and asked for a visa to come to the United States, and they asked you if you support Hamas, [and you said “yes,] they probably wouldn’t give you the visa. I’ve asked repeatedly, “Why aren’t we deporting people and revoking their visas?” I’m here for free speech, and I’m all for freedom of expression, but these aren’t Americans. These are visitors to our country who are organizing these protests in the streets to confuse and harass. 

It’s sad to hear so many of my friends whose kids have begun to hide their Jewish identity out of fear of what life is like on some of these campuses. I think we’ve been blessed in Florida. The University of Florida, my alma mater, has the largest population of Jewish students of any school in the country, and they’ve been fantastic at supporting them and supporting everyone. But in a lot of other communities, it’s not the case.

We’ll hear more about it now with spring break, as young people come back home and tell their parents. That’s why I’m starting to hear these stories. And it’s just heartbreaking. Frankly, I never thought I’d ever live to see the day where that was the case in the United States. But that’s what we’re facing. 

That’s relevant, not just because it’s annoying and dangerous, but because that’s what our politics is going to look like in 10 or 15 years if we don’t continue to step up our efforts, not simply to advocate, but to educate on the realities of everything that’s happening in the region, from Iran down to the history behind some of this. 

On social media, for a while, these videos were going on about “colonizers” and ridiculous things of this nature. They’re getting this from somewhere. Somebody is embedding these thought processes in the minds of people that are going to end up making important decisions in this country. 

Other than that, it’s going well. But these are the challenges we face, and you can always count on us, because it’s not just stuff I deeply believe, but it’s in the national interest of our country. It’s also the right place to be as a people and as a nation. Continue to count on me for all of that.