the national interest

No, Marco Rubio, Obama Isn’t Nicer to Iran Than to Israel

Senator Marco Rubio, a Republican from Florida, listens during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Wednesday, March 11, 2015.
Senator Marco Rubio, trying very hard to think. Photo: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Conservatives don’t want the Obama administration to make a nuclear deal with Iran. They also don’t want it to change its relations with Israel. Since both concerns are happening at the same time, they can be combined into what sounds like a bad Jay Leno news-mash-up joke but is actually a completely in-earnest right-wing argument: Obama is nicer to Iran than Israel! Marco Rubio made this case yesterday on the Senate floor:

If there are differences, they need to be dealt with privately, like you do with other allies. And more than anything else, they deserve to be treated with more respect, not less than the respect this President and this White House is giving the Supreme Leader of Iran. For he would not dare say the things about the Supreme Leader of Iran now that he is saying about the Prime Minister of Israel because he wouldn’t want to endanger his peace deal or his arms deal that he’s working out with them.

Rubio’s speech, and especially his comparison of the treatment of Iran and Israel, drew praise from such neoconservatives as Noah Pollak. It seems to be on its way to the status of major conservative talking point:

Let me clear this up for our freaked-out neoconservative friends, who are apparently unaware of some basic facts. Obama treats Israel much, much, much better than he treats Iran. His plan with Israel is to consider the possibility of ceasing to stand alone blocking unfriendly United Nations resolutions, while continuing to provide several billion dollars a year in aid, and also providing aid in the case of attack, as happened when Hamas launched a rocket assault.

Obama’s policy toward Iran is quite different than this. The United States does not provide a diplomatic umbrella for Iran; indeed, it presses other countries to toughen their stance toward Iran. The United States continues to support international sanctions against Iran, unlike Israel. Obama’s administration has threatened the possibility of military attack against Iran. It has never threatened to bomb Israel. He has insisted Iran has no right to a nuclear weapon while not insisting the same about Israel.

And, yes, Obama has said much worse things about the Iranian regime than he has ever said about Netanyahu’s government. He has said:

The Iranian regime supports violent extremists and challenges us across the region. It pursues a nuclear capability that could spark a dangerous arms race and raise the prospect of a transfer of nuclear know-how to terrorists. Its president denies the Holocaust and threatens to wipe Israel off the map. The danger from Iran is grave, it is real, and my goal will be to eliminate this threat.

He has further called it “a regime that has brutalized its own people” and has carried out “terrorist attacks from the Levant to southwest Asia.”

Obama has never said anything this nasty about Netanyahu. What he clearly believes is that Netanyahu is a disastrously bad leader whose lack of strategic vision imperils Israel’s long-term safety. He may believe that ratcheting up international pressure will dissuade Netanyahu from his self-destructive course. But, no, until he decides to cut off all American aid to Israel and endorse sanctions against it, he is not treating Israel worse than Iran.

No, Rubio, Obama Isn’t Nicer to Iran Than Israel