Pence bashes consulate plan

Trump tells Jewish Republicans he was best ever for Israel, Biden weak on Iran

In surprise video address to RJC confab in Las Vegas, former US president claims successor’s return to Iran talks directly led to missile fire on Israel

Donald Trump in a pre-recorded video appearance screened at the RJC convention in Las Vegas on November 6, 2021. (Screen capture: YouTube)
Donald Trump in a pre-recorded video appearance screened at the RJC convention in Las Vegas on November 6, 2021. (Screen capture: YouTube)

Former US president Donald Trump returned virtually to familiar stomping grounds at the Republican Jewish Committee’s annual confab in Las Vegas over the weekend, claiming that his successor, President Joe Biden, and congressional Democrats are endangering Israel.

In a short, pre-recorded speech screened at the event Saturday, Trump also insisted that he had been a better friend to Israel than any other president, and had taken the US-Israel alliance to new levels.

Trump took aim at Biden for efforts to reenter the Iranian nuclear deal, and appeared to link the negotiations to an 11-day war between Israel and Hamas that saw thousands of rocket attacks and airstrikes between Israel and the Gaza Strip in May.

The former president pulled the US from the Iran nuclear deal in 2018, in a move that led Tehran to ramp up enrichment activity after sanctions were reimposed. Israel has demanded that the US significantly bolster and expand the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action before the US agrees to restore it.

“Biden is bowing down to the Iranian leadership and threatening Israel security and safety like never before,” he said stonily, speaking from what appeared to be prepared remarks. “His unbelievable weakness toward the Iranian regime directly provoked a missile attack on Israeli civilians. Thousands of missiles being shot. Biden shamefully criticized and slandered the nation of Israel even when it was under attack.”

While Iran supports Hamas and cheered on Palestinian terror groups during the May flareup, few analysts have seen more than a tacit Iranian hand in the conflict, with little connection to the nuclear talks. During the war, Foreign Ministry spokesman Lior Haiat told The New York Times that there was no intelligence pointing to an Iranian role in the fighting.

Rockets from Gaza, on right, are seen in the night sky fired toward Israel from Beit Lahia in the northern Gaza Strip on May 14, 2021, while Iron Dome interceptor missiles, on left, rise to meet them. (Anas Baba/AFP)

Trump rattled off a list of moves his administration made for Israel, including recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, moving the embassy there, recognizing Israeli sovereignty on the Golan Heights, and withdrawing the US from the United Nations Human Rights Council over its anti-Israel bias.

“No president has ever been a better friend to the State of Israel and I am proud of that,” he said.

Trump’s appearance at the conference was not advertised by the RJC, likely reflecting the uneasy tightrope walked by the group as it tries to navigate a party riven between Trump loyalists and those who have recoiled from the former president, following his refusal to concede the 2020 election.

While most speakers praised Trump, the conference was overshadowed by the recent victory of Glenn Youngkin as Virginia governor, whose dark-horse win has been feted by Republicans as a blueprint for how to regroup in 2022.

Youngkin ran on many of Trump’s policies, but avoided having the Republican party leader join him on the campaign trail, a dance the RJC seems keen to emulate.

Then-US president Donald Trump receives a menorah from Las Vegas Sands Corporation Chief Executive and Republican mega donor Sheldon Adelson, left, and his wife Miriam Adelson, at the Israeli American Council National Summit in Hollywood, Florida, December 7, 2019. (AP/Patrick Semansky/File)

Trump, who is thought to be mulling a 2024 run, did not directly mention whether he would reenter politics, but urged the crowd to help get as many Republicans elected as possible in the midterms and beyond.

“We will win back the House, we will win back the Senate and we will win back in 2024 that beautiful white building sometimes referred to as the White House,” he said.

The RJC’s annual conference is a fixture of the Republican calendar, and was formerly seen as a required stop for conservative candidates seeking the backing of Sheldon Adelson, who died in January. Miriam Adelson, who had driven some of her late husband’s political spending, is widely expected to continue that tradition.

Then-governor Mike Pence of Indiana at the Republican Jewish Coalition spring leadership meeting in Las Vegas, April 25, 2015. (Ethan Miller/Getty Images/File)

Appearing at the confab were a number of other rumored possible 2024 presidential candidates, including former UN ambassador Nikki Haley, former secretary of state Mike Huckabee, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, and Trump’s vice president, Mike Pence.

Pence told the conference that Biden had “turned his back on Israel,” and urged Congress to reject a Biden administration plan to reopen a consulate in Jerusalem opposed by Israel, calling it an “unlawful step.”

Despite being targeted by pro-Trump protesters storming the US Capitol on January 6, Pence was effusive in his praise of the former president, saying it was “the greatest honor of my life, to serve as vice president with president Donald Trump.”

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