And a pleasant good afternoon everybody from a seasonally warm Washington, D.C. (52 degrees and sunny)!
The AIPAC conference’s afternoon session is about to get underway, and Hamodia will be bringing you live updates from inside the Walter E. Washington Convention Center.
Refresh for the latest updates. Latest updates are at the top of the page.
For highlights of the morning session, click here
Thanks once again for staying with Hamodia.com’s live updates.
See you again bright and early for tomorrow morning’s session – 8:30 a.m … and due to Pence’s appearance, press has to get here very early to go through Secret Service screening. Grooooaaaaaannnnn …
As the session was concluding, it was announced that Buttigieg is dropping out of the presidential race – and that, apparently, is why his speech was pulled at the last minute and Biden’s was used instead.
Democratic House Majority Leader Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) says last August he made his 15th trip to Israel; this time he was one of 41 House Democrats.
“We looked down from the Golan Heights and stood in solemn memorial at Yad Vashem. We met with Israeli doctors producing miracles for so many, including Syrian refugees … We gazed into Hezbollah-controlled villages and saw tunnels for terrorists along the Lebanese border … and we tucked our prayers for Israel’s safety into the crevices of the Western Wall.
“When members of Congress visit Israel, they are reminded what is at stake” for both Israel and America.
Hoyer is feeling the need to ensure the bipartisan support of Israel due to obvious anxieties over Sanders & Co.
He says the importance of AIPAC is that it brings Americans together, “from across the political spectrum to understand the importance of the U.S.-Israel relationship and to strengthen it.”
He says he is proud to be a leader in Congress “to maintain and grow the broad bipartisan consensus supporting Israel.”
Regarding talk of some Democrats opposing Israel, Hoyer says, “I’ve spent the last 50 years supporting the U.S.-Israel relationship. Let me make it clear: as a party,Democrats in the House stand solidly with Israel and the right of every Israeli to live in peace and security.” This got perhaps the longest applause of the say, like a sigh of relief from an anxious crowd.
Hoyer affirms that the “consensus among Dems and Republicans in support of Israel continues to be the reality, and to suggest otherwise mistakes the facts and weakens Israel.”
“One of AIPAC’s most critical missions is to make sure that everyone understands that we cannot allow Israel’s fortunes to ebb and flow with waves of political change in any election in either country. The relationship between America and Israel is not one of personalities but of principles. One of shared values and mutual interests. Let us always keep that in mind.”
“Our bipartisan support for Israel in congress is a strategic asset for israel and also for America.”
Hoyer says that when people forget certain important things about the relationship, “we must remind them.” It is vital, he says, that “they know the history that requires and demands support for Israel’s sovereignty, survival and success.”
Lest they forget that the people who march with those bearing swastikas are “not very fine people,” we must remind them, says Hoyer – a criticism of Trump’s comments after a protest in Charlottesville over removal of a Confederate statue, when he said there were “very fine people on both sides.”
“When others forget those campaigns of terror that targeted Israel before and after its independence, we must remind them.”
He says “we must remind them” that America must continue to spend on Israel’s security “with no conditions – because these are not just investments in Israel’s security, but in America’s as well. and there must never be conditions on protecting American security by maintaining the strength of our ally Israel.”
“As long as I am the majority leader of the U.S. House of Representatives, I will do everything in my power to ensure that Iran never acquires a nuclear weapon.”
“Israel’s security and strength is linked to the U.S. being a global leader” and credible ally, says Hoyer. “When people forget importance of alliances, we must remind them” – another dig at Trump, who has sought to minimize U.S. intervention on the global stage.
Hoyer is subtly pointing out that while some Democrats have certainly been opposing Israel, some things Trump has done have not been great for Israel and the Jews.
Hoyer also emphasizes the need to oppose BDS.
“We see BDS as a discriminatory movement – one that rejects the right of the Jewish people to live in a Jewish democratic state in the land of their ancestors.”
He also reads from the anti-BDS bill the House passed.
When Hoyer concluded his remarks shortly after 6 p.m., the applause was long and loud.
Of the criticism by Israel’s detractors, Pres. Korn says, “The Israel they talk about doesn’t exist. The real Israel – the Israel we all love and work so hard to protect – is a thriving democracy, a pluralistic society that embraces debate, and the rule of law, a free press … a mosaic of the world’ religions, a global innovator, a critical ally of America, and a nation whose people yearn for peace every single day.”
AIPAC President Betsy Berns Korn says The U.S.-Israel relationship as we know it “is under attack.”
Those bashing Israel used to be on the fringes, “but now they are being led by those growing in power and influence.”
“We’re in a fight. Israel’s detractors are mounting an attack on the very foundations of the U.S.-Israel relationship. They’re attacking the bipartisan support that has defined this relationship for over seven decades.”
“We represent the majority of America,” Korn declares.
“We are ready for this fight. Together, we will defend the values we hold dear. We will preserve the bipartisan majority we have worked so hard to build. We will maintain the diversity of this movement and we will make the already strong ties between America and Israel, even stronger.”
She is urging the pro-Israel community to contribute financially to pro-Israel political candidates on both sides of the political aisle.
The official schedule had Biden listed as speaking Monday afternoon, but he spoke at this session.
The schedule had Pete Buttigieg speaking at this session; not sure if that is still on, or if he will be swapped with Biden
In case you are wondering, there are a few dozen pro-Palestinian protestors outside the Washington Convention Center.
One guy is yelling about how 9/11 was a lie and some kind of CGI fraud.
Congolese President Felix-Antoine Tshisekedi (speaking in French), says his Christian faith gives him the deepest respect for Israel.
“Israel is at the heart of our Judeo-Christian civilization. You will therefore understand my particular attachment to the nation of Israel, its people and the holy city of Jerusalem.”
He notes that relations between the Congo and Israel have been “lethargic” and says he will an appoint an official to promote economic relations between the two countries.
“This nation is a source of inspiration,” he says, of Israel. “It teaches us what mankind can achieve in a short time, when it has will, resilience, and above all Divine grace and favor.”
He spoke in support of the Trump peace plan, and thanked evangelicals in America “for their tireless commitment to the peace and security of the state of Israel.”
Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden is speaking via pre-recorded video, while he was on the (victorious) campaign trail in South Carolina. He apologized that he couldn’t be here, and recounted his previous speeches at AIPAC and visits to Israel
He says “a few things have not changed and will not change
“I will always call out anti-Semitism whether it comes from the left, right or center.”
“I will never boycott you.”
“We’re in the battle for the soul of this nation … We’ve seen the rise of hatred spread all across this nation … and it’s more important than ever to reaffirm the basic values that are essential; to this nation and the democratic ideals that unite Israel” and the United States.
A two-state solution is the best way to assure a secure a future “for the Jewish and democratic state of Israel.”
“Israel must be able to defend itself. Its not just critical for Israeli security, I believe it’s critical for America’s security”.
“We cannot fully safeguard Israel without peace … and it’s also the best way to meet the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinian people… you don’t have to be anti-Palestinian to be pro-israeli.”
He spoke of the need to end the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, and says, “We’re not going to achieve that future if we don’t condemn steps on both sides that take us further from peace.”
He says that the Palestinians must stop incitement. And that Israel must “stop threats of annexation… like the recent announcement to build thousands of settlements … to be frank, those moves are taking Israel further from its democratic values” and undermining support of Israel among young people.
IDF Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus, of the IDF spokesperson’s unit is speaking now, about the fight against Hezbollah in Lebanon, and how terrorists store weapons in civilians’ homes. He is also discussing Operation Northern Shield, from late 2018 into early 2019, Israel discovered and destroyed six Hezbollah terror tunnels in a period of a month-and-a-half, which were to have been used to launch terror attacks against Israeli civilians and kidnap Israeli soldiers.
He is discussing the efforts of Hezbollah, backed by Iran, to obtain highly sophisticated “smart rockets” to target the Port of Ashdod, the ammonium tank in the Port of Haifa, the Azrieli Center in Tel Aviv, the Knesset in Jerusalem, and the runway of Ben Gurion Airport in Lod.
“It is now the task of the IDF to bring Hezbollah’s … program to the attention of the world.”
“Hezbollah looks for ways to kill. We look for ways to protect lives.”
Oh, and by the way, Bibi said, “I hope that tomorrow’s election will lead to a decisive outcome.”
I think everyone hopes that!
By the way, Netanyahu’s speech was far less of a political stump speech than was Gantz’s this morning (which you can read about in my article on the morning session, hyperlinked to in the intro above.
Netanyahu live via satellite:
Netanyahu offers “Greetings from Jerusalem, the united capital of Israel, which will never be divided again/”
The U.S.-Israel alliance, says Netanyahu, “is stronger than ever.”
“We were all reminded a few days ago that there are forces who seek to break our alliance,” said Netanyahu. “Last year those who came to AIPAC were accused of dual loyalty.” And this year, in an obvious reference to Bernie Sanders (though not by name), said Netanyahu, they were accused of “bigotry,” accusations Netanyahu said are “outrageous.”
“You,” said Netanyahu to the 18,000 AIPAC conference “send a powerful message to all those who seek to weaken our great alliance that they will fail.”
Turning to the White House’s peace deal, Netanyahu said that “Trump’s deal of the century is the opportunity of the century for Israel.”
“Last week, the joint U.S.-Israel mapping committee began its work, [which] should be finished in next couple of months. Israel will then apply its laws to all those territories that are recognized by the Trump plan as being part of Israel. And the U.S. will recognize those territories as part of Israel. This will be a truly historic day.”
Netanyahu says Israel “will remain prepared to negotiate on the basis of President Trump’s vision, anytime, anywhere” and he hopes the Palestinians will “reject the path of terror and incitement.”
The prime minister also pledged he will not allow a nuclear Iran.
He highlighted the advances Isrel has been making with Sunni Arab states, and concluded, “I have news for all those radicals that seek to weaken it: the best days of the U.S.s-Israel alliance are still to come.”
Dr. Mort Fridman, AIPAC Chair of the Board, says, “America and Israel need each other more than ever, and we, as AIPAC activists, Democrats and Republicans, are committed to strengthening the bond between our two great democracies.”
Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic recounts how in 2016, his country adopted a law to pay restitution to Jewish municipalities for heirless Jewish properties stolen during the Holocaust, and he displayed a yellow flag with a Jewish star outside the presidential office during the recent 75th anniversary of the Auschwitz liberation.
Vucic says his government will soon open a “state office” in Jerusalem. (Not sure what the status of this “state office” is, but it is not an embassy.)
“We love Jewish people, we have always had a great relationship, and we’ll do our best to improve our relationship.”
AIPAC Director of Policy and Public Affairs Dr. Marvin Feuer now is having a chat with Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic, the first Balkan head of state to appear at AIPAC conference.
Feuer and Vucic recount how Serbia was the first government to endorse the Balfour Declaration.
In addition to Austin, Buttigieg, Hoyer and Netanyahu, speakers this afternoon will include: Dr. Mort Fridman, AIPAC Chair of the Board; AIPAC President Betsy Berns Korn; Congolese President Felix-Antoine Tshisekedi; and Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic.
This conference, which will run from Sunday through Tuesday, comes at an interesting time.
Monday are Israeli elections (the third in less than a year) – hence Gantz and Netanyahu are speaking via satellite rather than in person.
The next day is Super Tuesday of the Democratic primaries. That is (at least one reason) why most Dems who are speaking at this year’s conference – although of course, in the opinion of some, speaking by video but not attending may just be a convenient excuse to play it down the middle in a party torn between traditional pro-Israel and new anti-Israel factions.
Only Mike Bloomberg will speak in person (Monday morning). Biden, Klobuchar, Warren are doing pre-recorded video speeches. Warren and Sanders are not speaking at all.
Trump is not speaking at AIPAC. He spoke in 2016, as a presidential candidate quite controversially; he used what is supposed to be a non-partisan platform to bash then-President Obama, and AIPAC’s president felt compelled to condemn the remarks and those who applauded them.
He has not spoken at AIPAC since, but high-ranking members of his administration have.
Highlights of this morning’s session included a pre-recorded video message from Democratic presidential candidate Amy Klobuchar, live remarks via satellite by Israeli Blue and White Party head Benny Gantz.
The afternoon session will included an address via satellite from Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu; a pre-recorded video message from Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg; and House Majority Leader Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.)