WASHINGTON (JTA) – Gov. John Kasich, R-Ohio, contrasted himself with Republican U.S. presidential front-runner Donald Trump in a speech to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).
At the Israel lobby’s annual conference Monday, Kasich took aim at Trump’s comment, much criticized in the pro-Israel community, that he would remain “neutral” in brokering Israeli-Palestinian peace.
“We cannot be neutral defending our allies,” Kasich said to the crowd of AIPAC activists in Washington, D.C.
Kasich, who is running a distant third in the Republican contest, spoke early in the evening, prior to speeches by his rivals Trump and Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas. Kasich also targeted the front-runner for what has been widely perceived as a divisive campaign, in which Trump has insulted Mexicans, Muslims, women and the disabled.
“We are Americans before we’re Republicans or Democrats,” Kasich said. “I will not take the low road to the highest office in the land, I will not do it.”
One of Kasich’s biggest applause lines came when he denounced Palestinian attacks on Israel, saying that they are a result of “a culture of hate that Palestinian Authority has promoted for 50 years,” of which he said he was “horrified.”
Also well received was his pledge to suspend the nuclear agreement between Iran and world powers, citing Iran’s recent ballistic missile tests as a violation of the spirit if not the letter of the deal. Kasich until recently had said that while he did not favor the deal, he would abide by it.
And in a comment that appeared directed at the Obama administration’s treatment of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Kasich said: “We must stand by our friends instead of abusing them while currying favour with our enemies.”