Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump on Monday told the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) his number one priority as president would be to dismantle the nuclear deal reached last year with Iran.
"This deal is catastrophic - for America, for Israel, and for the whole Middle East," he said. "The problem here is fundamental. We have rewarded the world's leading state sponsor of terror with 150 billion dollars and we received absolutely nothing in return."
Trump, the front-runner among a field that has narrowed to three, said he came to the annual meeting of AIPAC in Washington to speak about where he stands on the future of US-Israeli relations and their "unbreakable" friendship.
He said the biggest problem with the Iran nuclear deal, which followed years of negotiations between Iran and six world powers, and which the Obama administration considers one of its top foreign policy achievements, is that Iran can uphold its terms and still get to the bomb "by simply running out the clock."
If elected in November, Trump said he would meet immediately with Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has also sharply criticized the deal.
Aside from the nuclear deal he devoted much of his speech to criticizing the Iranian government and the Palestinian Authority.
The US under his leadership also would "stand up to Iran’s aggressive push to destabilize and dominate the region" and "dismantle Iran’s global terror network," he said.
Trump said Iran provides weapons to "puppet states" throughout the Middle East and criticized Palestinian support for terrorism. If the world wants to achieve peace, the Palestinians must end the indoctrination of children to hate Jews, he said.
AIPAC attendees gave Trump a moderately warm reception, but applauded and cheered loudest when he vowed to move the US embassy to "the eternal capital of the Jewish people, Jerusalem" and send a clear signal that there is no daylight between America and Israel.
A plan by a group of rabbis to leave the room in protest during Trump's speech never materialized.
Earlier Monday, Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton said the US can never be neutral in its support of Israel and blasted Trump for his shifting foreign policy.
"America can't ever be neutral when it comes to Israel's security or survival," Clinton said at AIPAC.
"We can't be neutral when rockets rain down on residential neighborhoods, when civilians are stabbed in the street, when suicide bombers target the innocent. Some things aren't negotiable."
She said she supported the agreement, which she said "has put a lid on its nuclear programme."
Clinton said that as a result of the deal Iran’s enriched uranium is all but gone, thousands of centrifuges have stopped spinning, Iran’s potential breakout time for obtaining a nuclear bomb is longer and new verification measures are in place to help deter and detect any cheating.
"I really believe the United States, Israel and the world are safer as a result," she said.
But she also said Iran's "continued aggression," was one of the threats the US and Israel.
"We cannot forget that Tehran’s fingerprints are on nearly every conflict across the Middle East, from Syria to Lebanon to Yemen," she said.
Clinton also took clear aim at Trump's shifting policy positions after he claimed to be "neutral" in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict before changing course and pledging support for Israel.
"We need steady hands, not a president who says he's neutral on Monday, pro-Israel on Tuesday, and who knows what on Wednesday, because everything's negotiable," Clinton said.
In another swipe at Trump, Clinton denounced his encouragement of violence at campaign rallies, his failure to clearly denounce white supremacist groups, and his calls to turn away Muslims from the US.
She likened the failure to act to those who did nothing to stop the Holocaust.
"America should be better than this. And I believe it's our responsibility as citizens to say so," she said. "If you see bigotry, oppose it. If you see violence, condemn it. If you see a bully, stand up to him."
Monday, March 21, 2016 - 16:57