Members of NORPAC — the bipartisan pro-Israel political action committee based in New Jersey — raised $100,000 for Republican presidential contender Sen. Marco Rubio Nov. 3 at the Riverdale, NY, home of Debbie and Howard Jonas.
Howard Jonas — the founder of the Newark-based IDT Telecom, and a director of Starz Media Holdings, LLC, Starz Media, LLC, and Starz Foreign Holdings — is a large contributor to many Jewish organizations and causes.
Although the fund-raiser was closed to the media, NORPAC president Ben Chouake told NJ Jewish News a day later that “Rubio showed a substantial command of the issues” during a discussion that centered mainly on foreign policy and immigration.
In a staunch defense of close ties between the United States and Israel, the senator from Florida said, according to Chouake, “Our allies feel they should be able to count on the United States. If we were to put sunlight between this country and Israel, how will other countries look at their relationships with America?”
Rubio’s answer, said Chouake, was that those countries’ “mindset will be affected by the relationship between the U.S. and Israel. And if that is rocky, if we don’t back Israel in a time of need, or if Israel feels the U.S. is not going to back it at a time of need,” American allies will be “apprehensive.”
Chouake said Rubio did not attack President Barack Obama’s relationship with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu; what he delivered was “more of an optimistic message about his views rather than criticizing the president.”
But Chouake said Rubio “did call the multinational nuclear agreement with Iran ‘terrible,’” and that the senator “hopes to mitigate as much of it as possible” if he is elected.
When the topic turned to immigration reform, Chouake said Rubio “clearly said immigration is part of America’s legacy, but we need to adjust it to encourage the best and brightest from all over the world to come here…people who can give added value and produce jobs for the country in sectors where we need those skills, and that should be our first priority.”
Rubio’s changing stance on immigration has weakened his standing in some corners of the Republican Party.
In 2013 he was one of the bipartisan “Gang of Eight” who drafted a bill to build a pathway to citizenship for many of the 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States, even as it strengthened border security. Although the bill was approved by the Senate, strong Tea Party opposition led to its defeat in the House, and Rubio came under fire from fellow conservatives. Then, last February, Rubio recanted his prior advocacy of the measure at the Conservative Political Action Conference.
According to Chouake, Rubio “basically disagreed with Donald Trump’s solution of deporting 500,000 people a month, but he said, ‘You have to find a solution. Certainly, criminals have to go, but for people who have been here for 10 or 15 years who bypassed the system, we have to find a solution whereby they are treated fairly if they have been here for a while and shown good faith.’ However, said Chouake, Rubio did not offer a specific solution.
A Dec. 3 benefit for Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) is on NORPAC’s agenda, but there are no plans to host other candidates as yet.