Good morning everybody, on a lovely winter day here in our nation’s capital! It’s going to hit 64 degrees today, the second day of March, 2020. Thank G-d for global warming.
Thanks for joining us for the Monday morning AIPAC session.
Scheduled speakers are:
— Democratic presidential candidate Mike Bloomberg
— Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser
— Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), a former presidential candidate
— Colombian President Ivan Duque Marquez
— Vice President Mike Pence
This morning’s session is scheduled to begin at 8:30 a.m.
As always, refresh your page for the latest updates, which appear at the top of the page.
Pence slams Sanders’ comments about AIPAC.
If we can agree on one thing, it should be this,” says the vice president. “Those who side with Israel’s enemies must never be allowed to call themselves friends of Israel. It is wrong to boycott and slander Israel, it is wrong to boycott and slander AIPAC.”
Pence is getting some big applause lines in.
“And I say from my heart: in the days ahead we must ensure the most pro-Israel president in history must not be replaced by one who would be the most anti-Israel president in the history of this nation. That’s why we need four more years of President Donald Trump in the White House.”
Crowd is roaring.
Pence says the U.S. and Israel are more than allies. “We’re family. We’re mishpacha.”
Pence is recounting the pro-Israel actions Trump has done, including recognizing israeli sovereignty of Golan Heights, said West Bank settlements are not illegal, shut the PLO office, signed the Taylor Force Act, ended contribiutions to UNRWA, moved the embassy to Jerusalem, and withdrew from the “so-called Human Rights Council.”
Trump also signed an executive order in December to fight anti-Semitism on college campuses. “If you want billions of dollars in taxpayer support, reject anti-semitism and reject it now.”
He is extolling the Trump peace plan: “Jerusalem will remain the united recognized capital of the state of Israel.”
“Peace will require compromise, but i promise you America will never compromise the safety and security of the Jewish state of Israel.”
“So we’ve been standing with our most cherished ally, and we’ve been standing up to or enemies … Israel isn’t the problem in the Middle East. We all know who is” – Iran.
Speaking of the “misguided leaders” (aka Obama Administration) who signed a nuclear deal with Iran. “Then something extraordinary happened: the American people elected a leader decisive and unafraid” who tore up the nuclear deal.
“The United States of America is ready to embrace peace with all who seek it, and we truly hope for a better and more prosperous future for the people of Iran. But … under President Donald Trump, America will never allow Iran to obtain a nuclear weapon.”
“Quite a contrast from the recent past isn’t it? The last administration was sending palettes of cash to terrorists.”
“The free world is safest when America is strongest.”
“We will never negotiate with those who seek the destruction of Israel. we will never negotiate with those who commit terrorism against Israel. Not now, not ever.”
Speaking of the growth of anti-Semitism: “We must root anti-semitism out from every part of our society … it is a threat to us all.”
“Anti-semitism has changed forms … now it often propagates as simply hatred against the state of Israel.”
“It is the position of the United States government that anti-Zionism is anti-Semitism.”
Pence brings greetings from Trump, who he calls “the greatest friend of the Jewish people and the state of Israel” ever to occupy the Oval Office.
Pence, who is heading the White House coronavirus task force, takes a moment to address that issue, and says the president has “no higher priority than the health and safety of the American people.”
Pence says, “Under this president, if the world knows nothing else, the world knows this: America stands with Israel.”
“We stand with Israel … because her cause is our cause, her values are our values, her fight is our fight … because we believe in right over wrong and good over evil, and liberty over tyranny” and because of “the ancient promise, Those who bless her will be blessed.”
Pence is about to start speaking. He has spoken at every AIPAC Conference since he became vice president.
Two daughters of Dr. David Applebaum, Hy”d, spoke briefly. Dr. Applebaum and his daughter Nava, Hy”d, were killed in a terror attack in Israel in 2003, on the night before Nava was to have been married.
Booker bemoaning the nasty state of politics:
“We need a revival in America of civic grace … we need to understand that patriotism is a love of country, and you cannot love your country unless you love your fellow countrymen and women.”
“America’s support for Israel is common ground. America’s partnership for Israel has never been and must never become a Republican issue or a Democratic issue, it must always be an American issue, a bipartisan issue, our issue. This is our truth, it reflects our love of all people. It is this deep bond between the United States and Israel that has always derived its power from the fact that has very little to do with what party or person is in power in either country.”
He says that as senator, he will work to “protect the bipartisan nature of this sacred friendship between Israel and the United States. And I call on all of us, no matter what your party … to guard against those who insidiously try to politicize the American-Israeli partnership for their own gain.”
“As long as the people in Israel have to live under the constant threat of indiscriminate violence … we must always, as a matter of human values, stand for Israel’s security and defense.”
He says that when congress members try to reduce aid to Israel, or when the BDS movement is promoted, “Silence is complicity. We must always speak out against them, we must always stand against them.”
Booker says the two-state solution is the “only pathway to a lasting peace.”
We must stand, says Booker, for the “human dignity, human right, the safety and self determination of the Palestinian people. This, you know, are Jewish values, the love of neighbors.”
Booker is a highly emotional speaker. He closes his eyes, and sounds like he is crying. He can sure rouse a crowd to cheers.
He is also speaking of Jews who joined blacks in the civil rights movement, and drawing a link, saying we all have work to do together.
He is highly knowledgeable in Judaism and Torah, and peppers his speech with verses in Hebrew.
“We together will keep America safe, we together will keep Israel safe, we will tikkun olam, we will keep between us an unbreakable and unshakeable bond.”
“We will ensure that Israel and America remain a light unto all nations.”
He roused the crowd into a roaring cheer at the end of his speech. Look out for Sen. Booker. He sounds like a modern-day MLK.
Videos of AIPAC speeches should be available online. If you get a chance, watch Booker’s. You’ll be entertained.
Sen. Cory Booker speaking now:
He says that there are a diverse group of people here, “united in our firm purpose unequivocally and resolutely: We believe in the state of Israel. We believe in the unshakeable bond between our countries. We believe that Israel is our indispensable ally in an increasingly dangerous region and complex world. We believe in the right of Israel to defend itself against aggressors and terrorists, and we will stand with our ally in their defense and fully support them, ensuring that they have the means and the resources to provide for their security and ours.”
“If I am elected president, i will strongly condemn anti-Semitism wherever and whenever it appears. And Americans will never have to choose between supporting Israel and supporting our values here at home.
“I will defend both, because I know they always have been linked, and our strong relationship with Israel is based on our values.”
Bloomberg got loud applause throughout his speech.
“As strong supporters of Israel, we don’t need to agree with everything an Israeli government does – and I certainly don’t. And as proud patriots of America, we do not need to support everything our government does, either – and I definitely don’t. Differences of opinion are healthy – even on big issues.”
“But … we can disagree with specific policy positions of presidents from both sides of the aisle without resorting to personal attacks or trying to claim Israel as the exclusive domain of one political party.
“It’s not. And whenever an elected official suggests otherwise, we should be unequivocal in condemning them. Because Israel should never be a football that American politicians kick around in an effort to score points.”
Bloomberg recalling his philanthropy in Israel and that he traveled on an El Al flight to Israel in 2014 when israel faced rocket attacks from Gaza. “Friends of Israel will never let fear of terrorism keep us out of our Holy Land.”
He sharply criticized Bernie Sanders for calling AIPAC a racist platform.
“He’s dead wrong,” said Bloomberg. “This is a gathering of 20,000 Israel supporters of every religious denomination, ethnicity … and political party. Calling it a racist platform is an attempt to discredit those voices, intimidate people from coming here, and weaken the U.S.-Israel relationship. The reality is: AIPAC doesn’t fuel hatred. AIPAC works to combat it – and the violence that it can produce. And if more elected officials spoke to the people here, they’d understand that.”
“I’ve always believed that you should meet with peole who disagree with you,” said Bloomberg.
Bloomberg recounted the recent rise of anti-Semitism across the United States, and declared, “Maintaining bipartisan support for Israel is more important now than it has ever been in our lifetime.”
Here is Bloomberg:
He says Israel is “small and resilient, and surrounded by adversaries, and if you caught the last couple of presidential debates, you know that I can empathize.”
Former Minnesota Sen. Rudy Boschwitz speaking now, recalling how Presidents George H. W. Bush called on him to negotiate what became Operation Solomon, in which 14,325 Ethiopian Jews were secretly airlifted to freedom in Israel in a 36-hour period.
And now there is an appearance by Takele Mekonen, one of those who was saved in Operation Solomon, and also saved many others, describing his experiences; he is now a successful tech executive in Israel.
Colombian President Ivan Duque Marquez speaking now, in English.
He is extolling Colombia’s growth: “In the past 20 years Colombia has turned its story into a success story.”
“We have expanded life expectancy, we have increased income per capita, we have improved our security. We have made our economy a vibrant economy.” Speaking of his believe in entrepreneurship and free enterprise.
Now extolling relationship with Israel, free trade deal. And speaks of the need to eradicate terrorism.
They will have a Colombian innovation office in Israel.
He is promoting a pro-immigrant agenda.
He says immigrants to his country “have made a difference.
“Colombia had its doors open to Jewish immigration to Colombia, they built very important companies … Migration has produced a very important positive effect in Colombia, and that’s the reason why today … we have supported our Venezuelan brother and sisters” fleeing that country.
He is speaking of looking forward to an end to Venezuelan dictatorship.
“We have to defeat the demagogues, and we have to promote the pedagogues in the way we approach politics.”
Colombia has seen vast improvements over the past three decades, and “allies like the U.S. and Israel have been very supportive of our transformation, and we will continue to embrace those values, and we will continue to defend them in every instance.” He said he hopes to visit Israel this year and put in motion a free trade agreement, and increase economic ties between the two countries.
There are bottles of hand sanitizer around the convention center, as this year’s conference takes place during a worldwide coronavirus outbreak.
One speaker at the conference urged attendees to be careful about sneezing, coughing, etc., … and not to hug.
Panel discussion has now moved on to discussing the Democratic candidates and Israel. Particularly Bernie Sanders, of course.
There’s a panel discussion now among political pundits about the presidential campaign. Not specifically related to Israel. Just a bunch of analysts discussing the campaign. What will, won’t can, maybe, shoulda, woulda, might, perhaps, maybe, we’ll see happen. In other words, the same sort of stuff we’ve been hearing for the past two years and will hear until November.
It was just announced that the program will begin at 8:40.
So all eyes and ears will be on what Bloomberg will say on Israel.
He’s billed himself as a strongly pro-Israel Democrat. It’ll be hard for any candidate to top the Trump Administration when it comes to friendliness toward Israel, but for Democratic voters looking for a pro-Israel candidate – or for Israel supporters who don’t like other Trump policies – Bloomberg will likely try to prove himself to be the candidate of choice.
His main moderate opponent, Joe Biden, spoke yesterday via pre-recorded video message. He reiterated his strong support for Israel, but also emphasized improving the lives of Palestinians and criticized settlement-building. In other words, the things you’d expect to hear from a Democratic Israel supporter. Will Bloomberg say similar things, or will he go further to the right? Stay tuned.
Finally made it through the security today at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center. First the regular security, then another round by the Secret Service, because Pence will be speaking. (Of course, the area around the convention center is closed off for several blocks.)
Your already-exhausted media members were told to arrive extra early for security, which means your Hamodia correspondent is already on his third caffeinated beverage. He’ll try not to keep track so his mom won’t get too nervous.
The big speech from this morning’s session will be Bloomberg – the only presidential candidate who will be speaking at the convention center. (Biden and Klobuchar spoke yesterday via pre-recorded video message; Buttigieg was to have done the same, but he dropped out yesterday – the news actually hit as yesterday afternoon’s AIPAC session was winding down.