Former Florida governor Jeb Bush on Monday officially joined the crowded 2016 presidential race, which now has 11 contenders on the Republican side. In remarks at Miami-Dade College announcing his candidacy, Bush included a vow to “rebuild” American relations with Israel, which have seen more tension than usual under President Barack Obama.
“I will rebuild our vital friendships,” he said. “That starts by standing with the brave, democratic state of Israel.”
Coming from a family that produced two U.S. presidents, Bush has a warm relationship with the Jewish community of Florida, where he has governor from 1999-2007. He has been scrutinized by some pro-Israel observers for the presence of former secretary of state James Baker—a vocal critic of Israel—on his team of 21 foreign policy advisers. But when Baker blasted Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for “diplomatic missteps and political gamesmanship” in remarks at this year’s J Street conference, Bush said through a spokesperson that he “disagrees with the sentiments [Baker] expressed” and pledged “unwavering” support for Netanyahu.
Fred Zeidman, a Houston businessman and Republican fundraiser who is close with the Bush family, told JNS.org in March that Bush “has certainly never given any indication that he won’t be as strong of a supporter [of Israel] as his brother [former president George W. Bush].”