More than 3,000 people gathered in Florida last weekend for the Israel-American Council conference, an annual affair where the pro-Trump forces that so enthusiastically celebrated the group’s last convention were either absent, or particularly moderate.
This 2019 conference (the group did not meet in 2020 due to COVID-19) looked a lot like a campaign rally for former President Donald Trump. This year’s meeting in Hollywood, Florida, the seventh annual meeting, marked the first time that a large Israeli or American Jewish group has met since the start of the pandemic, and reintroduced the more bipartisan tone that had characterized the Most previous IAC conferences.
“Every president, every US administration has supported and continues to support Israel to this day, and for that we are very grateful,” said Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz, who attended the conference after visiting to the heads of the American cabinet in Washington. “The leadership of Israel, and I within it, will never stop working to protect continued bipartisan support for Israel. “
The Israeli-American Council, founded in 2007 in Los Angeles as an apolitical Jewish association for Israelis living in the United States, has become more political in recent years and has attracted the most senior elected officials from the United States and the United States. Israel at its peaks. .
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In 2019, Trump introduced himself and was greeted by songs of “four years older”. In his remarks to the crowd, he lamented America’s Jewish community’s continued support for the Democratic Party. That same year, Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a Democrat from Florida, was mocked when she defended her party’s record on Israel. A year earlier, former Vice President Mike Pence sparked cheers when he ticked off a list of Israel-related initiatives from the Trump administration. Also that year, the best Democrats stepped onto the podium: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer.
This year’s conference featured measured remarks from guest speakers, including Gantz, who was in the United States for meetings with officials in the Biden administration, and U.S. Representative Ritchie Torres, a Democrat from New York who has received several standing ovations for his strong support for Israel.
Upbeat Israeli music permeated the conference hotel, Diplomat Beach Resort, where expensive pastrami sandwiches were prepared in the improvised “shuk”. But the absence of Trump and other speakers who like to piss off the crowd, in addition to pandemic safety protocols, has ensured a quieter affair.
Participants were required to take a quick COVID test before registering at the hotel. And masks were handed out at the entrances to the main ballroom, although most people held them in their hands or wore them as chin covers. Shabbat dinner was held on the hotel patio and screens were strategically placed to allow for social distancing. Israeli panelists and guests are required to self-quarantine upon their return.
Republican kingmaker and big IAC supporter Sheldon Adelson, who died earlier this year, was also absent from this year’s conference. Honored in Friday’s plenary session, Adelson had been a magnet at past conferences for GOP politicians seeking his support. His widow, Dr Miriam Adelson, who reportedly resumed making political contributions ahead of the midterm elections, came to this year’s conference but kept a very low profile.
In the ballroom and in the halls of the conference, while the speeches and panel were mostly conducted in English, the dominant language was Hebrew.
Amit Segal, an Israeli political commentator, told a panel on Friday night that it appeared attendees, naturally closer to the right in Israel and Trump admirers, had faced the change of government at the same time. in Israel and the United States, and the fact that much of their agenda has been shelved.
They realize, he continued, that President Biden is eager to return to the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran and that the Israeli government is stable and headed by an interim prime minister, Naftali Bennett, who, as he would like, is incapable of pursuing the policies of his Conservative Party and his allies.
Other highlights from the Israeli-American Council conference, December 9-11:
Challenging progressive criticism of Israel
Nachman Shai, Israeli Minister for Diaspora Affairs, challenged young progressive American Jews, a growing number of whom, according to a recent poll, believe Israel is a genocidal and apartheid state.
“Do you know of any other state or country on earth that brought in 3,000 people from Africa? ”Shai asked, referring to a recent decision by the Israeli government to allow around 3,000 Ethiopians to immigrate. “So when they ask you about Black Lives Matter, tell them that in Israel, Ethiopian Lives Matter.”
Paying a political price for Israel
Torres, during his first term in the House, said he had been harassed and received death threats for defending Israel. “If you’re a Republican, it’s easy to be pro-Israel,” he said in the last plenary session on Saturday. “If you’re a moderate Democrat in a moderate district, it’s still easy to be pro-Israel. But if you are a progressive Democrat in New York City, you have to pay a heavy political price. “
Torres, 33, who won an overcrowded primary in the 15th Congressional District of the South Bronx, is one of two openly gay black members of Congress and has built a fan base in the Jewish and pro-Israel community for its outspoken support for Israel. “I’m likely to face a main challenge because of my decisions,” he said. “But I am convinced that I am doing the right thing”
“For me, you don’t have to be Jewish or Israeli to clearly see the anti-Semitic double standard against Israel,” Torress added, to rapturous applause.
A healthy US-Israel relationship
Gantz, who prior to the conference had spent two days in Washington, DC, for meetings with Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and Secretary of State Antony Blinken, said he found both men attentive to his message.
“I told them that Iran is first and foremost a global and regional problem, and only then a challenge for Israel,” Gantz told a press briefing. He added that he also shares Israel’s “plan B” if the indirect talks between world powers and Iran in Vienna to revert to the 2105 nuclear deal fail. The Israeli military, he said, is ready to strike Iran independently.
“I concluded the visit as sincere, genuine and important for Israel’s security,” Gantz said.
A senior security official from the Israeli delegation told the Cheeky, on condition of anonymity, that the administration has not tried to link the Iranian accord and the progress of peace between Israel and the Palestinians. The official also said that Israel hopes that if talks with Iran fail, the Americans will support Israeli military action against an Iranian nuclear threat.
At the first major Israeli-American conference since the loss of Trump, less resentment and partisanship