Vice President Mike Pence gave what amounted to a textbook AIPAC speech to close out the first day of the pro-Israel lobby’s annual policy conference Sunday in which he affirmed the United States’ support for Israel, spoke of his personal admiration for the Jewish state and assured the audience of 18,000 that he and President Donald Trump would not allow Iran to acquire a nuclear weapon.
But Pence briefly departed from the collection of familiar pro-Israel tropes when he discussed a commitment that candidate Trump made at last year’s conference on the same floor of the Verizon Center in Washington.
“After decades of talking about it, the president of the United States is giving serious consideration to moving the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem,” he said to raucous applause.
(Last year, Trump told AIPAC, “We will move the American embassy to the eternal capital of the Jewish people — Jerusalem.)
Pence’s speech clocked in at just under 20 minutes, which was shorter than speeches at last year’s conference made by then-candidates Trump and Hillary Clinton as well as Vice President Joe Biden. Throughout his address the vice president made no direct criticism of previous administrations, unlike his boss who did so last year when he elicited a roar from the crowd at the mention of then-President Barack Obama’s ending time in office.
The audience on Sunday was calmer than last year during Trump’s address but gave roaring approval at times, such as when Pence told the crowd that he stands with Israel for the same reason that “every freedom-loving American” does and said he had an interest in the Jewish state at a young age due to his Christian upbringing.
“The songs of the land and the people of Israel were the anthems of my youth,” he said.
The crowd again rose to its feet when Pence name-dropped newly appointed diplomats David Friedman, the U.S. ambassador to Israel, and U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley. Pence praised Haley’s leadership in the international body for condemning a report that accused Israel of being an apartheid state.
“Ambassador Haley is already fighting tirelessly to end the one-sided actions of the U.N. that unfairly target Israel. And under President Trump, the United States will no longer allow the United Nations to be used as a forum for invective against Israel or the West,” he said.
Pence then turned to the Iran nuclear deal, which AIPAC heavily lobbied against and has criticized since its approval in 2015. Pence said that Iran now has additional nuclear weapons they have developed due to the “disastrous” deal and that the United States “will no longer tolerate Iran’s efforts to destabilize the region and jeopardize Israel’s security.”
“Our commitment to Israel’s defense is non-negotiable. Not now, not ever,” he said.
Repeating a phrase first said by former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn in early February, Pence stated, “This administration has put Iran on notice.”