Former Vice President Mike Pence addressed a pro-Israel group on the eve of a controversial U.S. visit from Israeli President Isaac Herzog, pledging his continued support for the U.S. alliance with the Jewish state.
“I will always be a defender of our most cherished ally, and if I have anything to say about it, if the world knows nothing else, the world will know this: America stands with Israel,” Mr. Pence told enthusiastic attendees at the Christians United for Israel (CUFI) Summit in Arlington, Virginia, on July 17.
CUFI is an advocacy group that fights anti-Semitism and promotes U.S. support for Israel.
Mr. Pence used the occasion to stump his vision for reasserting American leadership in the world to the conservative Christian organization that boasts some 10 million members.
Rev. John Hagee, the founder of CUFI, introduce Mr. Pence by presenting him with the organization’s Defender of Israel award “in recognition of his faithful and enduring service to Israel and the Jewish people.”
Mr. Pence has long advocated on behalf of Israel, first as a congressman, later as governor of Indiana, and finally as vice president. That advocacy is fueled by two motivations, according to Mr. Pence: his Christian faith and his political ideology.
“My love for Israel springs from the heart of a Heartland boy who can tell you firsthand … that love for Israel echoes from every little buckboard church beside every cornfield all across America,” Mr. Pence said.
Many conservative Christians see the modern state of Israel as a reinstatement of the biblical kingdom and therefore enjoying divine protection. As Mr. Hagee stated earlier in the event, “Israel is God’s number one nation, period.”
Echoing the divine establishment of Israel, Mr. Pence said: “We stand with Israel because we believe in right over wrong and good over evil. And we stand with Israel because Israel’s very existence is proof that the promises of God are true.”
Practical political considerations also inform Mr. Pence’s view on Israel.
Later, after mentioning the Abraham Accords, an agreement brokered by former President Donald Trump in 2020 to establish diplomatic relations between Israel, the United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain, Mr. Pence spoke of the political value of the U.S. alliance with Israel.
“We demonstrated that an unambiguous stand with Israel actually makes peace more possible, not less possible,” he said.
Mr. Pence then referred to the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan under President Joe Biden as “disastrous” and asserted that Russian President Vladimir Putin waited until Mr. Trump left office to invade Ukraine.
“America’s standing in the world is diminished,” Mr. Pence said.
“Those things are happening now because history teaches that weakness arouses evil. But peace comes from strength. And we need to return to American strength,” he added, evoking applause.
During his address Mr. Pence recited a litany of actions taken by what he frequently refers to as the Trump–Pence administration. Those included the passage of the Taylor Force Act, which prohibited U.S. aid to the Palestinian Authority until it stopped making payments to a fund supporting the families of deceased terrorists; moving the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv; acknowledging Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights; and withdrawing the United States from the Iran Nuclear Deal.
Each mention brought a fresh wave of applause, a decided change from recent campaign appearances where Mr. Pence has been sharply questioned and even booed by conservative Republican audiences for some of his positions.
Calling Out Critics
Mr. Herzog, as president, plays a largely ceremonial role in Israel’s government. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is the head of state.
Even so, the visit, which includes meetings with Biden and with Vice President Kamala Harris as well as an address before a joint assembly of Congress, has sparked some controversy.
Four representatives, including Rep. Jamal Brown (D-N.Y.), have said they will boycott the event to protest Israel’s treatment of Palestinians.
“I don’t think Israel has gone far enough in protecting and uplifting Palestinian rights and Palestinian lives,” Mr. Brown told The Epoch Times.
Reps. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), and Cori Bush (D-Mo.) have also stated plans to boycott Mr. Herzog’s speech.
Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) referred to Israel as a “racist state” on July 15, a remark she later retracted. Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) has referred to Israel as an “apartheid regime.”
Mr. Pence called out the remarks, saying, “It was truly shameful to see so many left-wing Democrats spending time spewing venom and vitriol at our most cherished ally.”
He also praised House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) for his intention to introduce a resolution in the House of Representatives the following day affirming U.S. support for Israel.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley also appeared at the event on July 17.
Jackson Richman contributed to this report.