Most of the contenders for president gave speeches at this year’s AIPAC Policy Conference in Washington, D.C., and expressed strong support for the defense of Israel. Links to videos and written transcripts of the speeches are provided.
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (D-NY) strongly condemned the anti-Israel Boycott, Divest and Sanctions (BDS) movement. She urged students on college campuses to stand up to promoters of BDS and to not let themselves be bullied. One of the first things she would do as president is invite Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the White House. She criticized Republican front-runner Donald Trump. She questioned the steadfastness of his commitment to Israel when he “says he’s neutral on Monday, pro-Israel on Tuesday, and who knows what on Wednesday.”
For his AIPAC speech, Donald Trump (R-NY) took the unusual steps of releasing the text of his speech in advance and then reading his speech from a teleprompter. He expressed unwavering support for Israel, although others, including Hillary Clinton, have questioned how reliable that support would be. He claimed to be a top expert on the nuclear treaty with Iran, which evoked laughter from the audience. However, many times during his speech the audience responded with enthusiastic applause. The next morning, Lillian Pinkus, president of AIPAC, apologized and criticized the attendees who applauded for Trump’s remarks that were disrespectful toward President Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Anticipating Trump’s remarks, a number of Jewish leaders had encouraged attendees to leave the hall before Trump’s speech. However, Trump’s speech was less inflamatory than his usual style. Fewer people left their seats than expected.
Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) opened his speech by saying, “perhaps to the surprise of a previous speaker (Trump), Palestine has not existed since 1948.” He promised to unite the Republican Party. Then he predicted that diverse groups of people would unite together, including Jews and a contingent of Democrats, who would all vote for the Republican presidential candidate. This would lead to the defeat of radical Islamic terrorism. He said he would rip to shreds the Iran nuclear deal and reimpose sanctions instead of waiting to verify Iranian complaince. He would veto any UN resolution establishing Palestine as a state. Universities that provide financial support to the BDS movement would lose federal funding.
Governor John Kasich (R-OH) is considered more moderate than some of the other Republican presidential candidates. He emphasized the importance of cooperation between Democrats and Republicans. He said, “I will not take the low road to the highest office in the land.” Kasich said this explains why he gets so little coverage in the media. He highlighted his role in supporting the construction of the “Holocaust and Liberators’ Memorial” at the Ohio Statehouse. He emphasized that during his many years in Congress he gained experience in foreign policy, particularly in reference to Israel. He said Iran should be punished for violations of the nuclear treaty and he would reimpose sanctions.
The only Jewish candidate, Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT), did not come to the AIPAC conference as he was campaigning in the western states. He offered to speak by video, but in a change of previous policy, only candidates who appeared in person were allowed to present their views. This video shows related thoughts on Israel from Anderson Cooper’s interview of Bernie Sanders by video-conference that day. Sanders sent AIPAC a transcript of the speech he had intended to give at AIPAC. His speech though ignored by most of the press emphasized strong support for Israel as well as his strong support for the rights of the Palestinians.