What did the presidential candidates say at AIPAC?
This year's AIPAC policy conference was extremely important after the implementation of the disastrous Iran nuclear deal. The issues stressed: to gather support for the reauthorization of the Iran Sanctions Act, impose sanctions targeting Iran's ongoing ballistic missile program, oppose any efforts to bring the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to the U.N., implore the president to veto any resolution, and continue the military aid.
American Thinker attended the conference and found that the most interesting part was the speeches by four presidential candidates. Although the rhetoric was something the delegates wanted to hear, the question remains as to whether the candidates' hearts will reinforce what their mouths said.
Something everyone who spoke agreed upon was that 20% of the participants were students, including high school students from such famous schools as Yeshiva University of Los Angeles. Who says the next generation cares only about material objects?
Below is a brief description in order of appearance of what each candidate said, and what the supporters of Israel should take out of each speech.
Hillary Clinton espoused her numerous visits to Israel, where she has made many friends, but failed to mention her hug and kiss of Suha Arafat, the wife of the terrorist, and having sat idly by when Arafat's wife accused Israelis of poisoning Palestinian children. Now Clinton speaks of how "Palestinian leaders need to stop inciting violence, stop celebrating terrorists, and stop paying rewards to their families." She insisted, "America needs an Israel strong enough to deter and defend against its enemies, strong enough to work with us to tackle and share challenges, and strong enough to take bold steps in the pursuit of peace." Yet supporters of Israel should remember how she led the charge when she insisted that Israel stop building apartments in its capital city, Jerusalem.
She also called out Donald Trump, although not by name, when stating, "We need steady hands, not a president that says he is neutral on Monday, pro-Israel on Tuesday, and who knows what on Wednesday because everything is negotiable. Well, my friends, Israel's security is non-negotiable. " She went on to say that both Israelis and Americans face intolerance and extremism against "the moral foundations of our society[.] ... If you see bigotry, oppose it; if you see violence, condemn it; and if you see a bully, stand up to him."
Toward the end of the speech she stated, "Some of us remember a woman, Golda Meir, leading Israel's government decades ago and wonder what is taking us so long here." Well, the answer is easy, Ms. Clinton: you are no Golda Meir.
The next speaker was Ohio governor John Kasich. He also talked of his past efforts to help Jews, mainly with the struggle of Soviet Jewry while he was a congressman and creating a Holocaust Memorial in his state. He went on to say that in the thirty-five years of his professional life, he has always been a proponent of Israel, and he would move the American embassy to Jerusalem. He reminded people that he attended Israeli prime minister Netanyahu's speech before a joint session of Congress in March 2015, the first time he had visited D.C. in fifteen years. He further stated that in response to Iran's recent ballistic tests, "I've called for the suspension in participation in the Iran Nuclear Deal. ... There will be no more agreements with self-delusional enemies."
Kasich indirectly chided the Obama administration while speaking of the dire threat, ISIS, and this was before the deadly Brussels attack. Governor Kasich stated, "We have remained committed to an ineffective and piecemeal approach. ... I will also provide support and relief to our common ally Jordan."
His conclusion was one of the most powerful of the night when he declared, "We all can look back to the time of Ronald Reagan and his meeting with Tip O'Neill, when they came together to put America first, politics and partisanship second. ... Republicans and Democrats here today, we need to work together with Congress on an agenda that serves the nation as a whole. We should be Americans before Republicans or Democrats."
When Donald Trump came to the stage, it was obvious for the first part of the speech that the delegates were sitting on their hands. But as the talk progressed, the audience warmed up to him – such that by the end, he was receiving standing ovation after standing ovation. He began by saying how he stood in solidarity with Israel after September 11 and during the Palestinian uprisings against Israel.
Hearing Trump speak, it is understandable why so many are gravitating to him. Although criticized for his rhetoric, sometimes rightly, he says what everyone thinks and feels. When speaking of the Iran deal, he minced no words: "It is a bad deal. The biggest concern with the deal is not necessarily that Iran will violate it; the bigger problem is that they can keep the terms and still get the bomb by simply running out the clock. And of course they will keep the billions and billions of dollars that we so stupidly and foolishly gave them."
Trump pledged "totally dismantling Iran's terrorist network, which is big and powerful, but not big and powerful like us. ... We will enforce the contract like it never has been enforced, believe me." He went on to discuss the recent Iran ballistic missile test and how they wrote on the missiles that Israel must be wiped off the face of the Earth. His response: "You can forget that. What kind of demented minds write that in Hebrew? Here is another twisted part: testing these missiles does not even violate the horrible deal."
Trump was the only candidate who spoke of "the utter weakness and incompetence of the United Nations. The United Nations is not a friend of democracy, it is not a friend of freedom, and is not a friend to the United States, and it is surely not a friend to Israel."
The next line created controversy at the policy conference, "With President Obama in his final year – yeah! – he may be the worst thing to ever happen to Israel." The reason for dispute was the huge standing ovation and applause. AIPAC believes in a bipartisan approach, and the board of directors told of those that took offense of Trump's statements because it disrespected the office of the presidency. Some spoke of their fear that now President Obama might not veto the U.N. resolution that would impose solutions on Israel in place of direct negotiations. Yet, if the president is that spiteful, isn't what Trump said very realistic, not to mention that the President puts his own hurt feelings ahead of America and its ally Israel's national security?
The board also spoke of "those in the AIPAC family deeply" hurt by Trump's statement. They singled out Mr. Trump, although not by name, while ignoring the fact that Hillary Clinton called him a bully. American Thinker got the impression that if the board is true to bipartisanship, it should have called out all parties. Because this was not the case, it makes some believe that this committee was looking for something to appease those who did not want Donald Trump to speak.
Texas senator Ted Cruz was last but not least. Unfortunately, having heard three presidential candidates before him, the audience seemed "speeched out." Including Senator Cruz, all the candidates spoke of the disastrous Iran nuclear deal, how they would impose sanctions if Iran cheated, the threat of ISIS, and how the BDS program demeans Israel.
Too bad the senator did not begin with his ending: the similarities between himself and the Israelis. "When I was a kid, my dad said over and over, 'When I faced oppression in Cuba, I had a place to flee to, but if we lose our freedom here, where do we go?' I feel it is an incredible blessing to be a child of an immigrant who fled oppression and came to America seeking freedom. There is one other nation on Earth that, like the United States of America, was created as an oasis, as a beacon of hope to people who faced oppression, horrible murder, and persecution. The nation of Israel, like America, is a beacon of light unto the world. All here understand, as Ronald Reagan did, that peace is only achievable through strength. This is what Israel understands when surrounded by neighbors who would drive them into the sea."
He went on to compare the Iranian deal to 1938 Munich agreement because of its appeasement and weakness. "We risk once again catastrophic consequences to allowing a homicidal maniac to acquire the tools to murder millions. The way to avoid conflict is to stand up to bullies."
It was great to hear all the presidential candidates who reaffirmed their unwavering support of Israel and its security. They addressed all the issues important to those who support Israel. What becomes obvious is that Israel shares with the U.S. political unity, moral clarity, and the fight against terrorism. As Prime Minister Netanyahu said, "Israel is an island of freedom, democracy, and stability."
The author writes for American Thinker. She has done book reviews and author interviews and has written a number of national security, political, and foreign policy articles.