WASHINGTON — Speaking to thousands of U.S. supporters of Israel, Vice President Mike Pence took dead aim Monday at Democratic critics of the U.S.-Israel relationship and called for a freshman lawmaker recently accused of anti-Semitism to be removed from the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
Pence’s remarks at the annual American Israel Public Affairs Committee Policy Conference in Washington were a direct partisan rebuke of Democrats at the most important gathering of politically active American Jews and their allies.
While Pence did not mention Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minnesota, by name, he described several comments she had made that prompted charges of anti-Semitism — such as tweets, since deleted, that accused Israel of having “hypnotized the world” and suggested that its American supporters were motivated primarily by campaign contributions.
Earlier this month, the House passed an anti-hate resolution after Omar suggested that support for Israel could amount to “allegiance to a foreign country.”
“Anti-Semitism has no place in the Congress of the United States of America,” Pence said, putting the AIPAC crowd on its feet. “And anyone who slanders those who support this historic alliance between the United States and Israel should never have a seat on the Foreign Affairs Committee of the House of Representatives.”
Republicans have reacted sharply to Omar’s remarks, seeking to use her comments to argue to pro-Israel voters that Democrats are at the very least tolerating anti-Semitism. Trump has called Democrats “anti-Jewish” and called for a so-called Jexodus of Jewish voters from the Democratic Party.
Democrats have reacted sharply, accusing Republicans of politicizing the U.S.-Israel relations for partisan advantage.
Speaking at AIPAC Sunday evening, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Maryland, said he supported Israel “proudly and unapologetically” and that a “large, bipartisan coalition in Congress” continues to strongly support Israel.
Pence, a Republican who served in the House from 2001-2013, told the crowd Monday that that was no longer the case.
“There was a time when support for Israel was not a partisan issue in Congress,” he said, later adding: “How things have changed.”
He went on blast Democratic presidential candidates for “boycotting” the AIPAC conference. While some left-wing groups have encouraged candidates not to attend in protest of AIPAC’s support of the current right-wing Israeli government, presidential candidates typically are not invited to speak in nonelection years, according to an AIPAC official.
Still, several campaigns have confirmed that they will not attend, and Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, said last week that his decision was rooted in politics.
“It is wrong to boycott Israel and it is wrong to boycott AIPAC,” Pence said.