NEW YORK — Mentioning President Donald Trump on stage at The Jerusalem Post Annual Conference this year was a surefire way to earn cheers and applause from the audience.
And similar to a Megillah reading, mentioning other names — former President Barack Obama or former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice, for example — got you boos.
Trump — whom Caroline Glick, senior contributing editor of the Post, referred to as “the most pro-Israel president in the history of U.S.-Israel relations, bar none” — was a popular figure at the all-day conference on April 29.
At the New York Marriott Marquis, dozens of speakers used their allotted time of about 10 minutes each to address topics like the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, bettering relations with Arab nations, advancements in health care and engaging with young Jews in the Diaspora. With the May 12 deadline to pull out of the Iranian nuclear deal looming ahead, Iran was a big topic throughout the day as well.
But, despite the challenges facing Israel, the message at the conference remained that there are a lot of reasons to feel proud and optimistic about the young nation, which celebrated its 70th birthday two weeks ago.
“As a son of Holocaust survivors, as a former paratrooper and officer in the IDF, and as minister of intelligence and transportation, I take great pride in our achievements in both the security and civilian fields,” said Israel Katz, one of the speakers. “We have realized the Zionist vision of Moses and Herzl and returned to the land that my parents longed for and generations of Jews prayed for and never forgot. We built a strong and modern state, which is recognized today as a global center of innovation and excellence.”
The speakers ranged from politicians like former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, current Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman and U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) to leaders of nonprofits and industries like Taglit-Birthright Israel co-founder Charles Bronfman and Tel Aviv University President Joseph Klafter, and other seemingly unusual choices like actress Roseanne Barr and former White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci. (Known, especially in New York, as “the Mooch,” the brash financier served in the communications role for all of 10 days before being sacked by Trump.)
Barr was one of the more popular speakers. She said she came to the conference for the chance to talk about her Jewish identity and her dislike of the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel. She also said she wants to make aliyah before the country runs out of real estate and joked, when asked about running for president, that she’s also going to run for prime minister, “a twofer.”
Barr also spoke about the return of Roseanne. She said Trump called her after the show aired to congratulate her on its high ratings, and she responded by thanking him on behalf of the Jewish people for moving the embassy to Jerusalem.
“We have to figure a way to talk to each other and stand together,” Barr said on actress Natalie Portman’s decision not to accept the Genesis Prize in Israel. “That day’s coming.”
Another popular speaker during the day was Olmert, a center-left politician, who spoke about his decision to destroy Syria’s nuclear facility in 2007, the Iran deal — he was not a fan of pulling out of it without a better alternative — and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict — “the one thing that separates Israel from an extraordinary breakthrough that will make our country the greatest place on Earth,” he said to a smattering of applause.
Olmert became particularly invigorated on the topic of the Kotel and the decision Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recently made to suspend the agreement for an egalitarian prayer space there.
“To deny the rights of Jews who are not Orthodox to share their heritage, the legacy, the historical memories, the desires of the Jewispeople in the most holy place of places for the Jewish people is to disqualify them as Jews, and this is absolutely unacceptable and intolerable,” he said as the audience broke into applause.
In contrast, perhaps the loudest objections from the audience came when, during a debate between Glick and Haaretz Senior Columnist Anshel Pfeffer, Pfeffer said Netanyahu has not fulfilled his potential and referred to the Palestinian territories as “occupied.”
“It’s not occupied,” Glick responded.
“But the people are,” Pfeffer said.
“No, they are my neighbors,” Glick said, “and the thing of it is, they’ve been living under Palestinian control since 1996. At a certain point, you have to say, ‘Somebody else is in charge of the Palestinians.’ They’ve only been in charge since 1996. They want to make a go of it. We did the best we could, and then the question becomes, where do we want to go with this? And we are blessed with an opportunity with President Trump, the most pro-Israel president.”
Her next words were drowned out by the audience’s cheering.
Cardin faced some negative reaction as well, particularly when he said that Trump’s decision to move the embassy wasn’t that significant. Though he acknowledged the existence of BDS support in the left’s base, he said he hasn’t seen the same hold true in the political system.
Mostly, though, like many speakers throughout the day, he focused on Iran. Cardin voted against the deal but has now said he doesn’t support pulling out. In an interview with Lahav Harkov of the Post, he further explained his position that pulling out of the deal would isolate the United States from the international community.
“If the United States pulls out of the Iran deal while they’re in compliance, we isolate the United States rather than isolating Iran,” Cardin said. “Iran is going to commit to never having a nuclear weapon. The United States must work with our allies to make sure that’s the reality.”
The day ended with Post Editor-in-Chief Yaakov Katz interviewing Scaramucci, who talked about Trump’s comments after Charlottesville and the Iranian nuclear deal. He said, just as North and South Korea have agreed on a historic peace deal with Trump as president, so too will there be a deal with Iran.
“I expect a super positive outcome as it relates to the Iranian situation and a very unpredictable outcome, typical to the scoffing you saw in the U.S. media and the international media as it relates to Korea,” Scaramucci said. “You will see the same type of reaction on Iran. The president is not going to take the typical nonsense from the Iranians.”
“Occupied?” My foot. In 1948, all of the Jews were cleansed out with the help of the once supposedly great Britain. The PA is promoting, paying for killing Jews, an extreme example of the cleansing of the Jews in 1948. It is high time to put an end to the rivers of blood caused by the PA and it’s willing inhabitants. The only solution to end this Islamic terror from Yehouda and Shomron is to reciprocate and cleanse the whole PA out.