HOLLYWOOD, Florida – When the Israeli American Council announced that US President Donald Trump would be the 2019 keynote speaker, the event was immediately sold out.
Some 4,000 people attended the Diplomat Beach Resort ballroom on Saturday night, some of them wearing Make America Great Again hats.
The crowd welcomed Trump with chants of “four more years,” followed by an introduction from Miriam and Sheldon Adelson, the IAC’s most significant donors. “It is the best show in town,” an IAC volunteer from California told The Jerusalem Post.
The president listed his actions in favor of Israel, from moving the embassy to Jerusalem and recognizing Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, to defending Israel in international forums and signing the Taylor Force Act into law.
It was also interesting to watch his condemnation of the BDS movement. For the past few months, administration officials are learning the facts about BDS and its effect on college campuses. Trump’s decision to invite a college student on stage to share her personal experience might indicate that the administration is willing to take a more active role in fighting BDS.
The president went on to wonder how come that given all these actions, there aren’t more Republican supporters in the Jewish community, saying some American Jews “don’t love Israel enough.”
Some Jewish Democratic organizations said these remarks were offensive. “We strongly denounce these vile and bigoted remarks in which the president – once again – used antisemitic stereotypes to characterize Jews as driven by money and insufficiently loyal to Israel,” said Halie Soifer, Jewish Democratic Council of America executive director. The Democratic Majority for Israel lobby group sharply criticized his remarks as well.
And while the president was in campaign mode when discussing American politics, including a comment about “Pocahontas,” in a barb to presidential hopeful Elizabeth Warren, when it comes to Israeli politics – Trump decided to stay away from controversy and not to discuss the ongoing deadlock nor the fact that no candidate was able to form a coalition for the past eight months. Unlike his past comments when Israel had its second election this year, this time he did not mention the stalemate nor its possible implications for the US and Israel, such as the administration’s desire to roll out the peace plan only after a new government is formed. The president did not even mention Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu by name.
He also skipped another hot topic: a possible move to apply Israeli sovereignty over the Jordan Valley, a move Netanyahu is openly trying to promote by gaining the support of the Trump administration.
Another point that is being discussed between the two administrations over the past few months is a bilateral defense pact. Netanyahu is trying to promote a treaty between the two countries, and the two leaders spoke about it over the phone ahead of Israel’s September election.
Ambassador Ron Dermer voiced his support last month in a treaty that JINSA is pushing. JINSA’S CEO Mike Makovsky told The Jerusalem Post last week that such a treaty would not limit Israel’s freedom of action. While Trump tweeted in September that he’d be open to discuss such a pact, he did not mention it on his speech yesterday.