- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Sen. Marco Rubio on Tuesday accused President Obama’s “political machine” of waging an “unprecedented” campaign to defeat Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the recent Knesset election.

The Florida Republican’s charge came after Mr. Obama insisted that he has a “very businesslike relationship” with Mr. Netanyahu, despite the obvious tension between the two world leaders over the White House’s efforts to strike a deal with Iran on its nuclear capability.

“Number one, he [Mr. Obama] can’t say he has a businesslike relationship or that it isn’t personal when his entire political machine, virtually, some of the top people in his political operation were in Israel, on the ground, trying to defeat Netanyahu, which is unprecedented,” Mr. Rubio said in an interview with conservative radio talk-show host Hugh Hewitt.

During a joint press conference Tuesday with Afghanistan president Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai, Mr. Obama denied any personal animosity between himself and Mr. Netanyahu, who won his reelection bid in the March 17 vote.

“I’ve met with him more than any other world leader,” Mr. Obama said. “I talk to him all the time. He is representing his country’s interests the way he thinks he needs to, and I’m doing the same. So the issue is not a matter of relations between leaders.”

Mr. Rubio pointed out that Obama 2012 national field director Jeremy Bird, who now heads 270 Strategies, was involved in the Israeli election as a consultant for the independent group V15, which did not support specific candidates but ran an anti-Netanyahu campaign.

“You know, he [Mr. Obama] didn’t send anyone in any other country to try to influence the outcome of those elections,” Mr. Rubio said. “And from Jeremy Bird down to others that were deeply and intricately involved in his campaigns in the past, he sent them down there to start the equivalent of a super PAC to try to oust Netanyahu. So I mean, what he’s saying is absurd in terms of it not being personal. That sounds pretty personal to me.”

Mr. Rubio, who has been highly critical of the Obama administration’s dealings with Israel, also said he had no definite date for an announcement on whether he will seek the 2016 Republican presidential nomination.

“Well, no drop dead date, but we are very close to making a final decision and an announcement in the next few weeks,” Mr. Rubio said. “And I guarantee you, you’ll know all about it.”

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