OP-ED ‘I’m for Israel. Period.’ That’s the John Kasich I know.

John Kasich at a campaign rally at the Franklin Park Conservatory in Columbus, Ohio, March 6, 2016. (Ty Wright/Getty Images)
Bradley R. Kastan (Raymond James)
Bradley R. Kastan (Raymond James)

COLUMBUS, Ohio (JTA) — There are many opinions as to what criteria should be used in deciding who gets my fellow Republicans’ vote as their nominee for president of the United States. But I think the only valid question should be this one: Which candidate can actually beat Hillary Clinton in November? Do Republicans really want to be sitting here next year asking ourselves how we could have nominated someone who all the polls show was trailing the Democratic candidates by double digits?

This is all the more painful for those of us who recognize that our most experienced candidate is also the only candidate who those same polls predict can win the election.

As a proud Republican and a committed Jew, I want to see as our next president someone who understands and respects the interests of the Jewish community and has a strong record of support for the State of Israel. As a father and an American, I want our next president to be someone with a strong command of national security issues who can hit the ground running on Day 1 as commander in chief. And finally, as a businessman and fiscal conservative, I want our next president to be someone who has actually put conservative budget policies to work — at the national and state levels — to create jobs and bring common sense to government.

I can personally attest to the fact that during his 18 years in Congress, John Kasich was the go-to person in the Ohio congressional delegation when it came to matters of Israel’s security. As a member of the Armed Services Committee, Kasich had a track record of unwavering support for the unique partnership between the United States and Israel. Not surprisingly, he has been a vocal critic of how President Obama has neglected and even called into question the strength of our country’s relationship with Israel. Last November he cleared his desk to travel to Washington, D.C., to show support for Prime Minister Netanyahu when he addressed Congress.

In an interview with the N.Y. Daily News just last week, Kasich stated:

“I’m for Israel. Period. End of story. Give them the superiority they need. And I think every single day, try to get through the day.

“I don’t think there’s any silver bullet for peace. A two-state solution, if they can work it out amongst themselves, fine. But I’m not an optimist on permanent peace between the Palestinians and the Israelis. I haven’t changed anything, folks. Nothing, OK, on any of my positions. I can change, if you point something out. I’m willing to take a look at it. I had a friend who told me one time, cause I was saying, ‘We’re gonna have peace.’ He says, ‘John, stability is what we want there.’ I happen to agree with that. I think the Israelis have to have the superiority in weapons, and it’s a very, it’s just an impossible situation.”

John Kasich’s history with the American Jewish community is so strong that on more than one occasion he has actually challenged us and held us accountable. While he was delivering remarks at his first Holocaust remembrance service as governor of Ohio, he turned to Jewish community leaders and said that while the ceremony of remembrance was important, the central Ohio community and the state needed to do more to share the message and lessons of the Holocaust. He then announced his commitment to construct a permanent Holocaust memorial on statehouse grounds, the first of its kind in our nation. Beginning that day, he led a three-year effort to build the extraordinary Ohio Holocaust & Liberators Memorial that sits on the Ohio statehouse lawn.

Kasich is both a trusted friend of the Jewish community and someone who is committed to a robust U.S.-Israel relationship. He has a deep understanding of and experience in national security and will keep us safe, and he has a demonstrated track record as a fiscal conservative who has balanced budgets at both the national and state government levels.

He’s my choice for president, and I believe he’s the right choice for anyone looking for a Republican candidate who has all these attributes and can actually deliver a victory to our party in 2016.

(Bradley R. Kastan is co-chair of the Ohio Holocaust and Liberators Memorial Commission, past chairman of the Columbus Jewish Foundation and past Ohio chairman of the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee. He has been a friend and adviser to Ohio Gov. John Kasich for more than 35 years.)