Marco Rubio Visiting Middle East; Will Meet With Netanyahu

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) is traveling in the Middle East this week and will meet with Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, President Shimon Peres and Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad.

Israel is a common destination for U.S. presidential candidates and Rubio is a top choice among some Republicans to be their party's nominee in 2016. On Monday, he was in Jordan and met with King Abdullah II.

Rubio is making the trip as a member of the Senate's Select Committee on Intelligence and the Foreign Relations Committee. According to a press release, he discussed with Abdullah how Jordan and the United States could cooperate on economic and security issues. The Syrian civil war was also a topic of concern and he met with former Syrian Prime Minister Riad Hijab, who defected to Jordan.

In a Saturday letter posted on his website, Rubio mentioned the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and Iran's nuclear ambitions as issues of importance for his trip.

"America's friendship with Israel is a truly special one," Rubio wrote, "and we must continue to do all we can to support this beacon of democracy, religious freedom and free enterprise in the heart of an unstable region. As Iran continues its pursuit of a nuclear weapon, we must continue to apply pressure through every possible means in order to prevent a nuclear Iran. And I look forward to assessing the impact American security assistance is having and discussing the importance of the peace treaty between Israel and Egypt and how we can maintain it during this time of great uncertainty and tumult in Egypt."

Rubio has been critical of President Barack Obama for not showing more leadership on the global stage. In a Friday press release, he criticized the president for not discussing the role of America in the world.

Obama "speaks eloquently of America's role as a 'beacon to all who seek freedom,' but stood idly by as protesters took to the streets in Iran, Syria, and elsewhere, pleading for American support, only to be rebuffed," Rubio added.

As with most presidential candidates, Obama also traveled to Israel and prayed in front of the Wailing Wall in 2008 when he was a presidential candidate. Last year's Republican presidential nominee, Mitt Romney, did the same in March, 2012.

Another potential Republican presidential candidate for 2016, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), visited Israel last month.

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