WASHINGTON — Republican presidential hopeful John Kasich opened AIPAC’s Monday night plenary session by trying to make the case that he is the best candidate equipped to conduct foreign policy and ensure Israel’s security, vowing to thwart Iran and slamming what he called a “Palestinian culture of death.”
“I won’t need any on-the-job training,” the Ohio governor told a crowd of some 18,000 who filled the Verizon Center in downtown Washington, calling himself the “candidate with the deepest, most far reaching foreign policy experience.”
But after framing his speech with that in mind, he warmed the crowd up by calling himself “unwavering in my support for the Jewish state.”
Speaking first on a night that has garnered much publicity over the anticipation for rival Donald Trump’s remarks, Kasich tried to assert his strength among the pro-Israel crowd, vowing to defend Israel from Iran and saying Palestinians needs to recognize Israel as a Jewish state.
Kasich told the crowd that the US should suspend the nuclear accord with Iran, which was forged last year and implemented in January, over its recent testing of ballistic missiles.
He vowed that, if elected president, he would not allow Iran to develop a nuclear weapon, and also suggested he would not make any other agreements he considered subpar. “No more delusional agreements with self-declared enemies,” he said. “No more.”
In the aftermath of the Iran nuclear deal, Kasich pledged his support for security assistance to Israel, indicating his support for a generous memorandum of understanding agreement to be concluded to Israel’s satisfaction. “No amount of money should stand in the way to make sure Israel is secured,” he said. “No amount of money.”
The best-received portion of his speech by the crowd, however, came when he denounced Palestinian attacks on Israel, saying that they are a result of “a culture of hate that Palestinian Authority has promoted for 50 years,” of which he said he was “horrified.”
While he insisted that he would defend Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state, and vowed to support Israel in the face of Palestinian hostility, he did not address the pursuit of a negotiated settlement that would result in a two-state solution.
He added he supported the US recognizing Jerusalem as “the eternal capital of Israel.”
Kasich is considered many a dark horse candidate, but recently won the primary in his home state of Ohio to keep alive his hopes emerge as the nominee in a potential brokered convention.
Speaking after Kasich, House Speaker Paul Ryan annoucned his first trip abroad would be to Israel.
Like Kasich, he also pledged to not allow support for Israel to be questioned.
“I can pledge to you here tonight that as long as I am Speaker of the House we will not allow any legislation that divides our countries to come to the floor for any consideration,” he said.
He also criticized the nuclear deal.
“Look, we all wanted the negotiations to succeed, but we were supposed to get something out of it. It’s fine to negotiate with our enemies, but not at our friends’ expense. That doesn’t make us safer. And I don’t think it’s an accident that every few months we hear of Iran testing another ballistic missile,” he said.