WASHINGTON — After appearing at a large rally Monday in Palm Beach for his wife’s presidential bid, former US President Bill Clinton met with roughly 100 members of the South Florida Jewish community.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was originally supposed to attend Monday’s campaign event at the Port of Palm Beach in Riviera Beach, Florida, but instead her husband filled in, as she is staying in Nevada ahead of that state’s Saturday caucuses, where she is currently running neck and neck with Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders.

At the press-closed meeting with community leaders, rabbis, elected officials and general supporters, President Clinton stressed the close bond that he and his wife have with the State of Israel and the deep connection they have to the Jewish community, The Times of Israel was told. He vowed that, if elected, Hillary Clinton would make it one of her top priorities to strengthen the US-Israel alliance.

The Florida primary, where the Jewish vote is seen as critical, does not come until March 15. South Florida has approximately 500,000 Jewish residents, according to the Sun-Sentinel newspaper.

A month before that contest, the Clinton camp is looking closely at the Sunshine State, particularly as political analysts and commentators now predict a tougher and longer-than-expected primary battle with Sanders.

Former president Bill Clinton speaks at a private campaign stop with members of the South Florida Jewish community on behalf of his wife, Hillary Clinton, February 15, 2016 (Courtesy, Hillary for America)

Former President Bill Clinton speaks at a private campaign stop with members of the South Florida Jewish community on behalf of his wife, Hillary Clinton, February 15, 2016 (Courtesy, Hillary for America)

During his presidency from 1993-2001 and since, Clinton has been highly popular with Israelis and the American Jewish community, making him an effective campaign surrogate for Monday’s event.

“For decades, President Clinton and Hillary have maintained strong ties to South Florida’s Jewish community — and today’s conversation was an opportunity to build upon years of friendship and shared values,” said Sarah Bard, director of Jewish outreach for Hillary for America, in a statement. “From lowering prescription drug costs to providing paid family leave to reaffirming our unbreakable bond with Israel, they understand deeply the issues that matter most to our community.”

In attendance at the meeting included US representative Lois Frankel (D-FL), a Jewish member of Congress who represents parts of South Florida, Rabbi Mark Winer, former head of the Central Conference of American Rabbis, and Nan Rich, former president of the National Council of Jewish Women.

At the large rally before his meeting with members of the Jewish community, Clinton took subtle jabs at Sanders, never mentioning him by name but indicating his wife’s rival doesn’t know how to work with others who hold different views and have different agendas.

“If you don’t deal with the fact that we are too politically polarized and we keep rewarding people who tell us things we know we can’t do because it pushes their hot buttons, we can’t go forward together,” Clinton told the crowd of more than 800, as he also likened supporters of Sanders campaign to the Tea Party faction within the Republican party.

“It’s not altogether mysterious that there are a lot of people that say, well, the Republican party rewarded the Tea Party. They just tell people what they want to hear, move them to the right and we’ll be rewarded, except they didn’t get anything done,” Clinton said. “That’s going on in our party now.”

The winner of the Florida primary will gain 246 delegates, which secretary Clinton won in 2008 when she ran against then-Senator Barack Obama.