White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon boards a vehicle as US President Donald Trump prepares to depart Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida, US, April 9, 2017..
(photo credit: REUTERS/CARLOS BARRIA)
NEW YORK – Steve Bannon, who was until recently the top White House strategist, on Sunday called on Jews and supporters of Israel to back President Donald Trump against what he called “the radical Left” and “the Republican establishment” in the US.
“We have a long dark valley to go through, folks,” said Bannon at a Zionist Organization of America dinner in New York. He added: “Iran, Turkey, Hezbollah, Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood, the Middle East right now is on a knife’s edge... The pressure President Trump is under in Washington, DC, as the radical Left tries to nullify – and they’re trying to nullify – the 2016 election... President Trump needs our back... because we’re a nation at war and this war is only going to be won if we bind together and work as partners.”
Bannon, the keynote speaker at the dinner, was making one of his first public appearances since being forced out of his position as Trump’s top strategist a few weeks ago. The Trump administration, both past and present, was well-represented at the dinner by, among others, former spokesman Sean Spicer and US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman.
However, the ZOA and its president, Morton Klein, were criticized for inviting Bannon, who has been blamed in the past for allegedly holding antisemitic views. Dozens of left-wing activists from Jewish organizations demonstrated outside the Midtown Manhattan hotel where the event took place.
In the hall, hundreds of donors and supporters repeatedly interrupted Bannon’s speech with applause and cheers.
In the speech, Bannon described Trump as “the strongest supporter of Israel since Ronald Reagan,” and praised Sheldon Adelson as someone who during the presidential campaign, “unlike the Republican Party establishment, didn’t cut and run.” Bannon twice referred to the media and its representatives in the hall as “the opposition party.”
He said Trump was committed to his promise to “eradicate” radical Islam “completely from the face of the Earth,” saying, “Look what he did in the first nine or 10 months of his administration – destroyed the physical caliphate of ISIS.”
ZOA’s Klein spoke after Bannon and said people on “the Internet” called him a Nazi for inviting the former presidential adviser. He followed by saying, “The Palestinian Arabs do not want peace.
The Palestinian Arabs have never wanted peace with the Jews and the Jewish state.
They only wanted to destroy the Jewish state.”
Applause also interrupted David Friedman’s speech, in which he said, “We came into office on the heels of perhaps the greatest betrayal of Israel by a sitting president in American history.” He referred to Trump’s withdrawal of the US from UNESCO and his being on the side of Israel in the Iran Deal by saying: “I hope you agree with me – we turned the page since the dark days of last December.”
On moving the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, Friedman said it was “not a question of if, it’s a question of when.”
Democratic Senator Joe Lieberman of Connecticut and attorney Alan Dershowitz also spoke at the event.