Marco Rubio: No Iran Deal Unless the Country Recognizes Israel

The new litmus test for aspiring 2016ers?

Marco Rubio, pictured here on January 20 in Washington, is pushing ahead on plans for a presidential campaign in 2016.

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In his Monday night interview with Sean Hannity, Florida Senator Marco Rubio became the first Republican presidential candidate to demand a concession from Iran that's as politically resonant at home as it is untenable in Tehran.

"There should have been a clear recognition on their part that Israel has a right to exist as a Jewish state," Rubio said, of Iran's concessions in negotiations.

"And that has to be a precondition?" asked Fox News's Hannity. "But in the middle of negotiations, if they're saying the destruction of Israel is nonnegotiable, is that—should that be a deal killer?"

"Oh, absolutely," said Rubio, "because again, this is a country that's made clear that they want to destroy a strong ally of the United States."

That was exactly the sort of answer Hannity wanted; he had mentioned the lack of recognition a week earlier, in his sit-down with Kentucky Senator Rand Paul. And it was an answer in sync with Israel's prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. On April 3, Netanyahu had demanded that any deal include a "clear and unambiguous Iranian commitment of Israel's right to exist." Days later, President Barack Obama told NPR's Steve Inskeep that the demand was just impossible.

"The notion that we would condition Iran not getting nuclear weapons, in a verifiable deal, on Iran recognizing Israel is really akin to saying that we won't sign a deal unless the nature of the Iranian regime completely transforms," said the president. "And that is, I think, a fundamental misjudgment."

By agreeing with Netanyahu, Rubio may have shifted the Overton Window for Republican debate on the Iran deal. If he didn't, it would only be because Republicans—with the exception of Paul—have opposed the deal with no hint that it could be flavored with anything worth supporting. If Netanyahu's demand becomes part of the Republican catechism, it might happen two weekends from now, when casino magnate Sheldon Adelson invites Republican presidential candidates to a summit in Las Vegas. Or it could happen today, when both Paul and Rubio participate in a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on Iran.

The momentum is surely in the direction of tying any deal to recognition of Israel; since 2014, Paul has demanded that concession from the Palestinian authority before any more aid goes to them.