Ohio Governor John Kasich, who labels himself as a moderate Republican presidential candidate with a “positive message,” held true to form on Monday at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) conference.
“I will not take the low road to the highest office in the land. I will not do it,” Kasich told the AIPAC crowd.
“We need to work together with Congress on an agenda that serves the nation as a whole. We are Americans more than we are Republicans and Democrats,” he said, echoing AIPAC’s organizational calling card of bipartisanship.
Kasich used a significant portion of his speech to tout his ties to the Jewish community, including his relationship with the late Gordon Zacks, an influential Ohio Jewish businessman and Republican activist; his advocacy for the release of famed refusenik Natan Sharansky from Soviet prison; and his work on establishing the state of Ohio’s official Holocaust memorial.
“They told me it could not be done and I told them, ‘You watch me, it will be done,’” Kasich said of the Holocaust memorial.
Kasich called his support for Israel “firm, and unwavering for more than 35 years of my professional life.” The governor, who formerly served on the U.S. House Armed Services Committee for 18 years, noted that during that time “we assured Israel’s qualitative military edge by offering the initial $10 million” for the Iron Dome missile defense system.
When Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke in Congress about the Iranian nuclear threat last year, Kasich said he flew to Washington for the address to “show my personal respect to the people of Israel.” Now that the Iran nuclear deal is in place, Kasich has called for the suspension of U.S. participation in the deal due to Iran’s recent ballistic missile test, which he called a violation of the spirit of the nuclear deal and a provocation that cannot be ignored. If Iran further violates the deal, he said, “we must put the sanctions back on them.”
When it comes to foreign policy, Kasich said, “I don’t need on-the-job training [as president]. I will not need to learn about the dangers facing us and our allies.” He said his national security appointees “will work tirelessly with Israel” to counter Iran’s regional aggression. He lamented that the U.S. is “not part of this new web of relations” between Israel and Arab Gulf states, and that his administration would work to expand those ties as well as provide support to common American-Israeli regional allies such as Jordan and Egypt.
Kasich also vowed that his administration would work to eliminate all bigotry, including anti-Semitism, particularly in international bodies. He said he is “very concerned about rising attacks on Israel and Jewish students on our college campuses,” and that he would make sure students gain the tools to combat hate speech.
The governor called the current wave of Palestinian terror in Israel “the outcome of a culture of death that the Palestinian Authority (PA) and its forebears have promoted for over 50 years,” slamming Palestinian school textbooks that are filled with “vile anti-Semitism,” PA stipends for imprisoned terrorists, and the Palestinians’ naming of public squares and streets after terrorists.