WASHINGTON — Coming on the heels of Republican frontrunner Donald Trump’s much-anticipated address to AIPAC’s annual policy conference, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz used his own speech before the group’s 18,000 delegates to chastise the billionaire businessman over his past pledges to remain “neutral” on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
While Trump did not explicitly disavow that pledge on Monday, he offered a different tune to the pro-Israel confab: “The Palestinians must come to the table knowing that the bond between the US and Israel is unbreakable,” he said.
But Cruz went after the controversial and famously bombastic Trump over his calls for neutrality.
“My leading Republican opponent says he will be neutral on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Let me be very, very clear,” the Texas senator told the crowd gathered at Washington DC’s Verizon Center basketball stadium, “as president I will not be neutral. America will stand unapologetically with Israel.”
He went on to deride Trump for his stated approach to dealing with the Iranian nuclear threat in the wake of last summer’s nuclear deal between Tehran and six world powers.
“Although Donald said he will renegotiate and get a better deal, I will rip this catastrophic Iranian nuclear deal to shreds,” he told an applauding crowd, shortly after they themselves received Trump’s AIPAC address warmly.
Cruz also vowed to shoot down any missile tests conducted by the Islamic Republic. Speaking to the ayatollahs in Tehran, he declared, “either you shut down your nuclear program or we will shut it down for you.”
Cruz then set his sights on President Barack Obama, criticizing the latter’s handling of the US-Israel relationship.
While AIPAC strives to remain bipartisan, Cruz emphatically did not. He said no Democrats agreed to attend a panel discussion with Holocaust survivor and Nobel-winning author Elie Wiesel in the Senate in March of last year, during the visit by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who sought to lobby Congress to oppose the Iran nuclear deal.
Cruz repeatedly attacked Obama for the nuclear deal, saying the US president allowed “a homicidal maniac to acquire the tools to murder millions.” He pledged to the delegates gathered in the Verizon Center in downtown Washington that, if elected, the “American people will stand together and say, ‘Never again means never again.'”
The nuclear agreement, he said, was analogous to the 1938 Munich Agreement with Nazi leader Adolf Hitler.
Cruz went on to address the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, telling AIPAC delegates that the Palestinian Authority’s lionizing of terrorists remained the major obstacle standing in the way of a negotiated settlement and a comprehensive peace between Israelis and Palestinians.
He vowed to veto any attempts by the Palestinian leadership to bypass negotiations and seek an imposed peace agreement at the United Nations, even promising to fly to New York personally — as president — to veto any such resolution himself.
Addressing the roughly 4,000 students present, Cruz took on the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel. “Anyone who supports BDS will lose any access to federal funding,” he vowed.
American support for Israel, the first-term senator and GOP primary runner-up said, was in America’s own national interest. Its military aid to the Jewish state “isn’t charity,” but rather furthers American security, including through intelligence cooperation in the region.
Cruz, who is currently second in the delegate count for the GOP primary, announced earlier in the day that he’s been endorsed by Utah governor Gary Herbert. Utah voters will cast their ballots on Tuesday, March 22.