Pence’s remarks kicked off the RJC’s annual national leadership meeting, on Feb. 24-26, at the Venetian Resort Hotel and Casino—a hotel owned and operated by pro-Israel philanthropist and staunch Republican Sheldon Adelson, who was in attendance.
Speaking for 30 minutes, Pence described Israel as America’s “most cherished ally” and praised the “immutable bond” between the two countries.
Regarding anti-Semitism, he denounced “appalling acts of vandalism” that have targeted the American-Jewish community, specifically the Feb. 20 destruction of more than 170 grave sites at the Chesed Shel Emeth Society cemetery in St. Louis, Missouri.
Finally, on the issue of Iran, he was clear, saying, “President Trump will never allow Iran to develop a nuclear weapon.”
The phrase was a marked departure from repeated promises President Trump made while campaigning that he would scrap the deal President Barack Obama struck with Iran and other nations to keep it from developing a nuclear weapon.
Introduced by former Vice President Dick Cheney, Pence took the stage around 7:50 p.m., with his wife, Karen, by his side. Shabbat dinner followed his remarks.
Over the course of his speech, he discussed the president’s nomination for U.S. ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, Trump’s bankruptcy attorney and a controversial nomination among left-leaning pro-Israel groups that have vowed to prevent him from securing the ambassadorship.
“I say with confidence, he will be confirmed,” Pence said of Friedman.
Pence is the former governor of Indiana, a position he occupied from 2013-2017. While governor, he passed legislation that prohibits the state from entering into contracts with companies that boycott Israel.
His support for Israel was reinforced by a recent visit to Dachau concentration camp and on Friday, he spoke about his experience at the concentration camp and about being accompanied in the camp by a Holocaust survivor.
His visit to Dachau followed a controversy sparked by Trump omitting reference to Jews during an International Holocaust Remembrance Day statement.
Just as well known as his pro-Israel positions are his socially conservative ones. While governor, Pence signed restrictive abortion laws and supported pro-gun and pro-coal legislation. A supporter of the Tea Party movement, he is a devout Christian.
He was a talk radio host before he was elected to Congress in 2000.
Audience members in the Venetian ballroom included Adelson and his wife, Miriam, who were seated at a banquet table near the front; Israeli American Council chairman Adam Milstein, philanthropist Fred Leeds, Congressman Ed Royce and Rabbi Shmuley Boteach.
“I think the RJC’s good for Israel,” Boteach told the Journal as he made his way through the hotel lobby around 11 p.m., Corona beer in hand.
Others to turn out included Los Angeles criminal gang prosecutor Elan Carr, who said it is incumbent on the community to support the president regardless of how they voted.
“Look, he’s the president,” Carr said of Trump in an interview. “I’d be in Hillary’s corner if she won. The president is the president.”
Josh Kaplan, board chair of Beach Hillel, helped lead a delegation of 12 California college students whose admission to the conference was paid for by philanthropists Deanna and Allen Alevy.
Kaplan is all too familiar with the recent spike in anti-Semitism as the Beach Hillel has an office on the campus of the Alpert JCC in Long Beach, one of dozens of JCCs that have been targeted by ultimately discredited bomb threats over the past couple of months. During an interview, Kaplan expressed gratitude that the vice president spoke out against anti-Semitism.
“To know the administration is aware that our local community was targeted and is standing in front of the community here saying we support you, are aware of it, we want to help, it’s great,” Kaplan said.
Additional elected officials slated to speak over the course of the weekend are U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham; Cheney’s daughter, Liz Cheney, a current member of the U.S. House of Representatives and Royce (Liz Cheney did not appear due to her being “hung up,” her father said). The Pence discussion was the only conference program open to members of the media.
FULL SPEECH: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PMWUV...