AIPAC Condemns Donald Trump's Attacks on Obama at Pro-Israel Conference

The president of AIPAC said she was disappointed that attendees applauded as Trump went off-script to call Obama "the worst thing to happen to Israel."
March 22, 2016, 4:40pm
Photo by Shawn Thew/EPA

After Donald Trump's speech last night at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) conference in Washington, DC, the president of the organization took to the stage Tuesday morning to condemn the Republican frontrunner's attacks on President Barack Obama.

Lillian Pinkus, president of AIPAC, criticized Trump — although not by name — for using the group's policy conference, whose theme is "come together," to divide the pro-Israel community.

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"We say unequivocally that we do not countenance ad hominem attacks, and we take great offense to those that are levied at the president of the United States of America from our stage," an emotional 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."

Trump's speech was generally well-received by the audience Monday night. He earned big applause for his remarks criticizing Iran and the administration's deal with the country over nuclear weapons.

The speech was an important one for Trump, whose previous comments that he would be "neutral" in hypothetical peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians drew strong criticism from pro-Israel activists and some of his campaign rivals. Several rabbis organized a protest of Trump's speech at AIPAC on Monday, though a mass walkout never materialized.

Related: Despite Threats of Protests, Donald Trump Wins Over the Pro-Israel Crowd at AIPAC

Trump took the unusual step (for him) of delivering prepared remarks from a teleprompter, saying in follow-up interviews that he had read a written speech rather than delivering off-the-cuff remarks because of the significance of the event. But Trump went off script in attacking Obama, pausing at a line in his speech that began, "With President Obama in his final year" to add "Yay!"

Trump then added: "He may be the worst thing to happen to Israel, believe me. Believe me. And you know it. And you know it better than anybody."

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While some in the audience booed the remarks on Obama, they were largely drowned out by AIPAC attendees who cheered and stood to clap in the massive Verizon Center arena.

Pinkus said Tuesday morning that she was disappointed that so many of the estimated 18,000 attendees at this year's AIPAC policy conference supported Trump's remarks.

"We are disappointed that so many people applauded a sentiment that we neither agree with nor condone," Pinkus said.

Related: Hillary Clinton Attacks Donald Trump at Major Pro-Israel Conference

Hillary Clinton, who also spoke at the AIPAC conference on Monday, repeatedly attacked Trump in her speech earlier in the day but never mentioned him by name.

"Let us pledge to each other that in this divisive and tension-filled political season that we will not allow those that wish to divide our movement—from the left or the right—to succeed in doing so," she added.

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