At an American Israel Public Affairs Committee conference on Monday, Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump gave a scripted speech that seemed tame compared to his past riffs.
While Trump is typically known for speaking off the cuff, he appeared to be reading from a teleprompter at the AIPAC conference and released his prepared remarks on his campaign website while he was speaking.
In his speech, Trump mostly stuck to Republican national-security orthodoxy. He stated his support for Israel, said he would “dismantle” the Iran nuclear deal, and pledged to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
He opened his speech by saying that he might be new to politics “but not to backing the Jewish state.” Trump said that his first priority would be dismantling the deal between Western powers and Iran that places restrictions on the country’s nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief.
“I know deal-making and let me tell you, this deal is catastrophic — for America, for Israel, and for the whole of the Middle East,” Trump said. “The problem here is fundamental. We have rewarded the world’s leading state sponsor of terror with $150 billion and we received absolutely nothing in return.”
Trump also called for moving the US embassy for Israel, which he had previously declined to do. Both Israelis and Palestinians claim Jerusalem as their capital. The US doesn’t currently recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
“We will move the American embassy to the eternal capital of the Jewish people, Jerusalem,” Trump said, as people stood up and cheered. “And we will send a clear signal that there is no daylight between America and our most reliable ally, the state of Israel.”
Critics have called out Trump in the past for lacking substance in foreign policy, and he’s run into trouble before while speaking before a Jewish audience.
Trump has also been slammed for saying that he would be “neutral” between Israel and Palestine.
During an MSNBC town hall in February, Trump declined to say whether he would support one side over the other in the conflict between Israel and Palestine. He also seemed to suggest that it would be impossible to achieve peace there.
“Let me be sort of a neutral guy,” Trump said then. “I have friends of mine that are tremendous businesspeople, that are really great negotiators, [and] they say it’s not doable.”
His speech on Monday was anything but neutral.
“When I become president, the days of treating Israel like a second-class citizen will end on day one,” Trump said to applause.
“And when I say something, I mean it,” he added. “I will meet with Prime Minister Netanyahu immediately. I have known him for many years and we will be able to work closely together to help bring stability and peace to Israel and to the entire region.”
Trump’s address didn’t land with everyone. Josh Rogin, a political analyst and columnist for Bloomberg View, said that Trump looked “awkward” reading from the teleprompter and noted that his speech “doesn’t speak to Trump’s mastery of foreign policy, just his ability to read… and he’s not doing great at that.”
And Trump’s critics aren’t likely to stop calling him a foreign-policy naïf. Ted Cruz, a rival candidate who spoke at AIPAC after Trump, began his Monday-night speech by criticising the frontrunner’s knowledge of Israel’s history:
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