WASHINGTON (JTA) — Sen. Ted Cruz said a vote for Hillary Clinton is a vote for a nuclear-armed Iran.
“We need to nominate a candidate who has the clarity to stand up and say: If you vote for Hillary Clinton, you are voting for the Ayatollah Khamenei to have nuclear weapons,” Cruz said in his speech Thursday to the Republican Jewish Coalition. “And if you vote for me, Iran will never have nuclear weapons.”
Cruz made the comment at the RJC’s candidates forum in Washington. All 14 Republican presidential hopefuls are scheduled to speak at the event.
Israeli security and American social policy were dominant themes of the early addresses at the forum.
Sen. Lindsey Graham said immigration and social issues like abortion were major obstacles to a successful Republican bid for the presidency. Speaking after Cruz, Graham, who acknowledged his low standing at only 1 percent in the polls, said a successful Republican candidate must make exceptions for abortions in the case of rape and incest. Cruz opposes abortion even in such cases.
Graham also called for a shift in the party’s rhetoric on immigration and noted his many years of unwavering support for Israel.
Sen. Marco Rubio, the most warmly received of the three, said efforts to boycott Israel are “despicable” and promised to “call on university and religious leaders to speak out with clarity and force on this issue … the same way they speak out on racism.” Rubio said the recent European move to label products produced in Israeli settlements is discriminatory.
Both Cruz and Rubio promised they would immediately move the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem if elected.
The morning began with two moments of silence for the victims of the mass shooting Wednesday in San Bernardino, California, and calls for prayers for the families of survivors and victims.
“All of us are deeply concerned this is another example of terrorism — of radical Islamic terrorism at home,” Cruz said.
“Coming in the wake of terror attacks in Paris, this underscores we are at a time of war whether or not the current administration realizes it or is willing to acknowledge it our enemies are at war with us,” he said. “This nation needs a wartime president to defend it.”
Cruz also took on the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel, or BDS, implying that federal funding should be stripped from universities that endorse it.
Rubio in his address noted his longtime support for Israel, calling himself a “staunch supporter of our military system to the Jewish state.”
“Anti-Semitism hides behind the label of anti-Israel,” he said.
“I will put the peace process in perspective,” Rubio said. “President Obama and Hillary Clinton have made it defining feature of our relationship – and it should not be because Israel has no partner for peace.”
There is, he said, “no moral equivalence between Israel and its enemies.”