WASHINGTON Donald Trump, staking out a pro-Israel position that had nary a mention of the neutrality he had asserted earlier, earned an enthusiastic response to his speech at AIPACs annual conference.
The real estate billionaire and frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination, speaking Monday, March 21, to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, softened two positions that have created unease among pro-Israel activists his insistence on remaining neutral in brokering Israeli-Palestinian peace and his refusal to commit to recognizing Jerusalem as Israels capital.
On Jerusalem, Trump vowed to move the American embassy to the city, the eternal capital of the Jewish people. And he said the Palestinians must accept as a given the closeness of the US-Israel relationship.
The Palestinians must come to the table knowing that the bond between the US and Israel is absolutely unbreakable, Trump said. They must come to the table willing to accept that Israel is a Jewish state and it will exist forever as a Jewish state.
Trump opponents who had said they would protest the speech because of his broadsides against minorities and his sanctioning of political violence were not visible during his speech, which earned repeated standing ovations.
Trumps enthusiastic embrace of pro-Israel orthodoxy appeared to resonate with the AIPAC activists at the Verizon Center, and the loud applause inside the Washington, DC, arena was not the only indication.
Immediately following Trumps speech, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, his closest rival in the presidential race, scored Trump for pledging neutrality on Israel and for not promising to shred the Iran deal upon election. Both gibes fell flat.
Trump delivered broadsides against his likely rival in the general election, Hillary Clinton, calling her a total disaster and blaming her for last years Iran nuclear deal.
The line earned laughter and applause, although Clintons speech earlier in the day was well received.
His rhetorical flourishes at the UNs expense were crowd pleasers, too.
The UN is not a friend of democracy. Its not a friend to freedom. Its not a friend even to the United States of America, where as all know, it has its home. And it surely isnt a friend to Israel, Trump said.
His biggest applause line was when he began a sentence, With President Obama, in his final year yay!
AIPAC led opposition last year to the Iran nuclear deal and clashed repeatedly with the Obama administration in its unsuccessful bid to have Congress nix the deal.
Trump in his address notably avoided some of the generalizations he has used to describe ethnic and religious groups.