Trump to 4,000 Israeli Americans in Florida: US-Israel relationship is 'stronger now than ever before'
President Trump speaks to crowd of over 4,000 people at the Israeli American Council National Summit. Talia Kaplan reports from Hollywood, Florida.
President Trump addressed a crowd of more than 4,000 people at the Israeli American Council (IAC) National Summit in Florida on Saturday night, saying Israel and America have an "unbreakable bond."
Trump delivered the keynote address at the summit, which took place in Hollywood, Fla., and was welcomed by the crowd chanting "four more years." The Israeli American Council is financially backed by one of Trump's top supporters, billionaire Sheldon Adelson.
In the first address by a sitting U.S. president at the IAC Summit, Trump said America and Israel's relationship is "stronger now than ever before."
"I have stood firmly and proudly with the state of Israel," Trump said. He said he kept his promises and that Israel "never had a greater friend in the White House than your president Donald Trump."
The president spoke about the latest move by his administration to strengthen Israel's position and undermine Palestinian claims regarding land sought for a future state. Last month, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that the U.S. government is easing its stance on Israeli settlements in the West Bank.
Pompeo essentially rejected a 1978 State Department legal opinion holding that civilian settlements in the occupied territories are “inconsistent with international law.”
He also said the White House was reversing an Obama administration directive that allowed the U.N. Security Council to pass a resolution declaring the settlements a “flagrant violation” of international law.
While the announcement received praise from Israeli officials -- including Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who called it “historic” -- the international community, which overwhelmingly considers the settlements illegal, did not take the news favorably.
In a statement sent to Fox News, Federica Mogherini, vice president of the European Union, said: “The European Union's position on Israeli settlement policy in the occupied Palestinian territory is clear and remains unchanged: all settlement activity is illegal under international law and it erodes the viability of the two-state solution and the prospects for a lasting peace.”
Trump already broke with his predecessors by deciding to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, moving the U.S. Embassy to that city and supporting Israeli sovereignty over the contested Golan Heights region. In Hollywood on Saturday, Trump mentioned all those decisions.
He said recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital is a "great, great thing."
Trump talked about Israeli security and said, "My administration made clear Israel's absolute right to self-defense," as he referenced the latest round of fighting between Gaza and Israel.
Last month, two days of violence left at least 32 Palestinians dead. The day after a senior Islamic Jihad commander was killed by the Israeli military in a targeted airstrike, the Israel Defense Forces said it was “raining rockets” across the country, with the terror group firing one projectile every 7 minutes.
Trump also told the crowd of Israeli Americans, “Today the ISIS caliphate has been 100 percent obliterated."
He noted that a few weeks ago, U.S. special forces killed the founder and leader of ISIS, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
Trump held a rally in Sunrise, Fla., last week where he also mentioned his unprecedented moves in strengthening U.S.- Israeli relations, which included supporting Israeli sovereignty over the contested Golan Heights region.
It’s a message the president seems to be pushing in his reelection campaign.
As Trump addressed the crowd at the IAC Summit on Saturday night, Trump also spoke about anti-Semitism and said his administration is committed to curbing the problem.
He said "we must not ignore the vile poison" and said his administration is "using every single weapon at our disposal."
He brought up former New York University (NYU) student Adela Cojab to the stage. She said she experienced anti-Semitism on her college campus, including witnessing a student who was a member of a pro-Palestinian group on campus, Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), burn an Israeli flag.
Her lawyers filed charges of anti-Semitism and a hostile environment for Jewish students at New York University, and they were notified last month that the Department of Education had opened a full-scale investigation into their allegations.
The complaint sent to the Department of Education said: “SJP is a radical organization affiliated with terror groups, bent on adopting a policy of anti-normalization of Jewish groups, and on isolating, demonizing and ultimately destroying the Jewish state.”
Cojab, who was the president of an Israel advocacy group at NYU and was a representative for Jewish students in student government, graduated in May and filed the complaint one month before.
NYU spokesman John Beckman told Fox News that the university "has not received any direct notice from the Department of Education indicating that there is an OCR investigation."
"If there is, we know that any allegations that the University has been anything less than highly supportive of or deeply concerned about its Jewish community are untrue and unfair, and ignore the real record," Beckman said, continuing: "That those involved in disrupting the pro-Israel rave in Washington Square Park in 2018 were referred to the University's student conduct office; that NYU and its president rejected and criticized attempts to ostracize pro-Israel groups; that the University has publicly, repeatedly, and vigorously repudiated BDS proposals both at NYU and elsewhere ... and ... that NYU is the only U.S. [university] to have opened its own dedicated academic campus in Israel, has flatly rejected any and all calls to close it, and continues to be committed to it."
National Students for Justice in Palestine (NSJP) did not immediately respond to Fox News’ request for comment. However, in a statement sent to Fox News, NYU’s SJP chapter said: “NYU Students for Justice in Palestine and NYU Jewish Voice for Peace believe Palestinian liberation and Jewish liberation go hand in hand. We work tirelessly against anti-racism, Islamophobia and anti-Semitism. The fact that around half of SJP is Jewish, along with our interfaith work where an Israeli Jewish woman and a Palestinian Muslim woman crafted a BDS resolution on human rights, is evidence of just that.”
On Saturday night, Cojab thanked President Trump for his work on anti-Semitism.
Trump also brought up U.S. Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism Elan Carr to the stage.
Trump spoke at the 6th annual IAC Summit. Vice President Mike Pence was the keynote speaker at the conference the year before.
President Trump's trip to Florida on Saturday also featured a separate address to members of Florida's Republican Party at the Statesman's Dinner in Aventura. The Florida GOP did not allow news media coverage of the event.
The trip came hours after Trump celebrated Iran's decision to free a Chinese-American scholar from Princeton University who had been held since 2016. The U.S., in turn, released an Iranian scientist in its custody.
"We are also working to free hostages unjustly detained around the world including in Iran," Trump told the crowd on Saturday night.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.