The Cable

AIPAC Condemns Donald Trump Speech: ‘We Take Great Offense’

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s president rejected the Republican front-runner’s attacks on President Obama — and the audience that cheered him.

AIPAC leadership, including President Lillian Pinkus (2nd R), make a statement rejecting comments made the previous day by Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump about US President Barack Obama, during the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) 2016 Policy Conference at the Washington Convention Center in Washington, DC, March 22, 2016. / AFP / SAUL LOEB        (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
AIPAC leadership, including President Lillian Pinkus (2nd R), make a statement rejecting comments made the previous day by Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump about US President Barack Obama, during the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) 2016 Policy Conference at the Washington Convention Center in Washington, DC, March 22, 2016. / AFP / SAUL LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)

Less than a day after Donald Trump drew enthusiastic applause and standing ovations from the crowd at the annual conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the group’s leadership took to the same stage Tuesday morning to deliver a strong rebuke of his disparaging remarks on the man he hopes to follow into the White House.

“We say, unequivocally, that we do not countenance ad hominem attacks, and we take great offense to those that are levied against the president of the United States of America from our stage,” AIPAC President Lillian Pinkus said. “While we may have policy differences, we deeply respect the office of the president of the United States and our president, Barack Obama. We are disappointed that so many people applauded a sentiment that we neither agree with nor condone.”

Following a handful of other candidates in something of a campaign rite of passage for presidential hopefuls vying for support from the powerful Jewish-American community and pro-Israel lobby, Trump used his atypically tempered Monday address to AIPAC to calm criticisms prompted by earlier comments he’d be “neutral” between Israel and Palestine. But he also looked to boost his candidacy with this key constituency by slamming the Obama administration, which at times has had a cold relationship with its Israeli counterpart.

“With President Obama in his final year — yeah!” Trump cheered, to laughter and applause from the audience. “He may be the worst thing to ever happen to Israel, believe me, believe me. And you know it, and you know it better than anybody.”

Checking off the boxes for his hawkish pro-Israel audience, Trump slammed the United Nations, the Iran nuclear deal, and the “culture of hatred” in Palestinian society. But he reserved his characteristic sneer for Obama and extended it to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, his likely opponent as the front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination.

“You see, what President Obama gets wrong about deal-making is that he constantly applies pressure to our friends and rewards our enemies,” he said, roping in Clinton, whom he described as “a total disaster, by the way.”

“She and President Obama have treated Israel very, very badly,” he continued, to more cheers and applause.

But Pinkus admonished his comments, saying they were intended to divide the community.

“Last evening, something occurred which has the potential to drive us apart, to divide us,” she said. “Let us take this moment to pledge to each other that in this divisive and tension-filled political season, we will not allow those who wish to divide our movement from the left or from the right [to] succeed in doing so.”

Trump’s campaign has come under criticism for divisive language, prompting accusations of inciting violence, claims which he has denied.

Photo credit: Saul Loeb/Stringer

Molly O’Toole is a senior reporter at Foreign Policy, covering immigration, refugees, and national security. She was FP’s sole 2016 presidential campaign reporter, on the trail from New Hampshire to Nevada. Previously, she covered the politics of national security for Atlantic Media’s Defense One, where she reported from Congress, the White House, the Pentagon, and the State Department. Before that, she was a news editor at the Huffington Post. Molly has also reported on national and international politics for Reuters, the Nation, The Associated Press, and Newsweek International, among others, from Washington, New York, Mexico City, and London. She received her dual master’s degree in journalism and international relations from New York University and her bachelor’s from Cornell University and in 2016 was a grant recipient of the International Women’s Media Foundation. She will always be a Californian. @mollymotoole

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