Donald Trump used a speech to a Republican Jewish convention on Saturday to promise, if re-elected, to reinstate a controversial travel ban that affected a number of predominantly Muslim countries.
“We will keep radical Islamic terrorists out of our country,” Trump told the audience at the Republican Jewish Coalition’s annual summit.
“Remember the travel ban? On day one I will reinstate our travel ban.”
At the start of his presidency in 2017, Trump imposed sweeping entry restrictions on travelers from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria, Yemen and, initially, Iraq and Sudan. The order was quickly challenged in court as discriminatory against a religious group, but the bans, along with Trump’s hardline anti-immigration agenda, resonated with his base.
President Joe Biden lifted the ban in his first week in office in 2021.
Biden “was proud to repeal his predecessor’s abhorrent, un-American Muslim ban,” a White House spokesman said.
The former US leader was among several Republican candidates who lined up at the gathering of influential Jewish donors to pledge unwavering support to Israel in its war against Hamas.
Trump said at the event in Las Vegas in the southwestern state of Nevada that he would “defend our friend and ally in the State of Israel like no one has ever done.”
The conflict between Israel and Hamas is “a battle between civilization and savagery, between decency and depravity, and between good and evil,” said Trump, who received the warmest response from attendees as he took aim at the Biden administration and it avoided criticizing her rivals.
The former reality show host, who is the overwhelming favorite to win the party’s nomination to run against Biden next year despite multiple criminal prosecutions, was speaking after causing a stir in recent weeks by endorsing the Lebanon-based Islamist group Hezbollah called it “very smart” and criticized Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Also present in Las Vegas was Trump’s nearest rival, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who called the October 7 Hamas surprise attack on Israel “the deadliest attack against Jews since the Holocaust itself.”
Hamas militants killed at least 1,400 people, mostly civilians.
In the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip, more than 8,000 Palestinians have been killed by Israel’s relentless retaliatory bombing, mostly civilians and many of them children, according to the Health Ministry.
Citing what they say is rising anti-Semitism on U.S. college campuses, DeSantis and others suggested cutting funding for universities and eliminating visas for pro-Palestinian foreign students.
“We need cultural chemotherapy to fight this cancer,” said Senator Tim Scott.
“Any student with a visa who calls for genocide should be deported.”
The only woman in the race, Nikki Haley, Trump’s former ambassador to the United Nations, has raised fears of anti-Semitic attacks on U.S. soil.
“As president, I will change the official federal definition of anti-Semitism to include the denial of Israel’s right to exist,” Haley said, adding that she would eliminate tax breaks for schools that do not combat anti-Semitism.
“Free speech is allowed on college campuses, but they are not free to spread hate that supports terrorism,” she said. “Federal law requires schools to combat anti-Semitism. We will give this law teeth and enforce it.”
Organizers said newly installed Republican House Speaker Mike Johnson and House Majority Leader Steve Scalise would address the gathering Saturday evening.
Former Vice President Mike Pence surprised the gathering on Saturday when he announced he was withdrawing from the 2024 presidential race, becoming the first major candidate to pause his campaign.
“I realized: This is not my time,” he said. “After much prayer and consideration, I have decided to suspend my presidential campaign.”
Support for Israel is a major issue for both political parties in the United States and a rare example of foreign policy that counts at the ballot box, thanks in part to the large number of Jewish voters.
It is also an important issue for evangelical Christians, for whom the existence of a Jewish state is a central prerequisite for the hoped-for “second coming” of Jesus Christ.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)
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