Donald Trump isn’t known for delivering meticulously prepared, detailed speeches during his campaign rallies, but for off-the-cuff remarks peppered with slogans. This will make his Monday, March 21 scripted address at the annual policy conference for The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) unusual.
It could be the first days of spring that inspired this change, but more likely it’s the audience. Like the other presidential candidates (except for Bernie Sanders, the only Jewish one, who will be campaigning on the West Coast), Trump will be talking to one of the country’s most powerful lobbies, at a gathering expected to draw as many as 18,000. In the billionaire’s case, the speech will be both a test and an opportunity for redemption, as he faces an unfavorable crowd.
Trump’s team has been preparing his remarks over the past week, sources close to the campaign told Politico, and they will “outline his depth of knowledge about the U.S.-Israel relationship and his 30 years of supporting Israeli causes.” The AIPAC speech aims to demonstrate his seriousnesses as a presidential candidate, and preparedness for the job.
The audience will want to hear a clear position on Israel. Trump has in the past said he would remain neutral in the Israel-Palestine conflict, in contrast to the staunchly pro-Israel Republican establishment.
Some Jewish groups and journalists have bashed AIPAC for the invitation and called for its rescinding, and many of the Jewish leaders attending the conference are planning some sort of protest against the candidate. Hundreds of attendees are planning to walk out during his speech, an unprecedented move that will be supported by important Jewish institutions such as the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and the Nazi-hunting Simon Wiesenthal Center, The Daily Beast reports. The ADL says it will send back some $56,000 in donations that Trump has made to the group over the years because it doesn’t like his campaign. One group that plans to leave is a contingent of rabbis who will be reading passages in the Torah that speak about tolerance.
Jewish leaders, including Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu, have condemned Trump’s anti-Muslim positions, and his hesitation to disavow the Ku Klux Klan. Holocaust survivors are among those who have compared his tone and behavior to that of Hitler.