After Marco Rubio’s win in the Florida Senate race, he and his wife bolted to Israel.
Is this a sign that the Republican — and speculated possible vice presidential candidate in 2012 — is making an attempt to bone up on his foreign policy credentials?
Rubio’s spokesman, Alex Burgos, downplayed the trip’s importance: “It was a personal vacation with his wife Jeanette. There were no official meetings.”
Asked about prior travel outside the country, the spokesman said Rubio has spent some time out of the United States before the Israel trip, though mostly in Latin America and in the Caribbean. This was his first trip to Israel.
Burgos said Rubio “hopes to return [to Israel] early next year in an official capacity as senator.”
The Miami Herald reported that Florida businessman Norman Braman, who did not respond to a request for comment left at his office, also accompanied Rubio to the Holy Land.
Asked whether Rubio met with anyone of political importance while there, an Israeli Consulate official in Miami only said the government was not involved in Rubio’s trip.
“We were extremely happy to see him go to Israel, something we had long suggested to him, as we do to many people, but did not actually participate in the visit,” said Paul Hirschson, the Deputy Consul General of Israel in Miami.
Other political observers didn’t find the trip particularly insightful.
“Obviously, it is important for any lawmaker who will be engaged in the important issues affecting American interests in the Middle East and the US-Israel relationship to get a first hand understanding of the challenges we, and our friends in Israel, are facing, from the prospect of a nuclear Iran and a palestinian authority that refuses to talk peace, to the growing Iranian-back[ed] threats from Hezbollah on Israel’s northern border and Hamasistan in Gaza,” said Josh Block, a former spokesman for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee and founding partner of the public affairs and strategic consulting firm Davis-Block. “Whether it signals his ambition for higher office is difficult to know, and largely irrelevant.”
When asked whether Rubio’s trip signaled the newly elected senator’s possible ambitions for higher office, William Kristol, the editor of the Weekly Standard, said pithily in an e-mail: “Maybe he just wanted to see Israel? It’s an interesting place.”