Donald Trump, real estate tycoon and front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination, offered an unusually detailed policy speech on Israel and the Middle East at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s annual policy conference on Monday night.
The speech was a departure from his typical speechifying: Trump used a teleprompter, from which he read crisp remarks on the complexities of the threats facing the Jewish state. He spoke extensively of Israel’s willingness to resume negotiations with the Palestinians without preconditions, and its opposition to a political framework for a two-state solution imposed by the UN Security Council.
He distinguished between the nuclear deal reached with Iran last summer and preexisting international laws on its ballistic missile work, and detailed how he, as president, would address both threats.
Trump repeatedly received standing ovations, and few audience members were seen leaving the massive stadium hall despite a planned protest of the controversial candidate.
The following day, AIPAC leadership expressed regret to President Barack Obama for Trump’s attack on him during his speech, and for the loud applause it earned.
“While we may have policy differences, we deeply respect the office of the President of the United States and our President Barack Obama,” Lillian Pinkus, the newly installed president of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, said Tuesday, joined by other AIPAC lay and professional leaders.
“There are people in our AIPAC family who were deeply hurt last night and for that we are deeply sorry,” Pinkus said, her voice choking. “We are deeply disappointed that so many people applauded a sentiment that we neither agree with nor condone.”
To date, Trump’s campaign has been defined by accusations of racism, xenophobia, bullying and a stubborn refusal to delve into the weeds of policymaking. And on the issue of Israel, Trump had repeatedly stated before Monday night that he would remain “neutral” in the state’s decades-old conflict with the Palestinians, in pursuit of a historic “deal of all deals” – a two-state solution.
“I’m a newcomer to politics – but not to backing the Jewish state,” he told the crowd.
While he said he did not come to pander to the group on Israel, he continued to wax poetic over the state’s moral compass, its positive role in the world as a liberal democracy and America’s clear interests in standing by its side.
Trump said his “number one priority” is to dismantle the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the formal name for the nuclear deal with Iran. He will do so, he said, by aggressively policing the deal, and not by “ripping it to shreds on day one” in the Oval Office as his primary rival, Texas Senator Ted Cruz, vowed to do in his own speech to AIPAC on Monday night.
SOURCE: Michael Wilner