LAS VEGAS ((JEWISH REVIEW)) — Mike Pence chose a Jewish gathering to announce his exit from the presidential race, with a veiled warning that his onetime boss, Donald Trump, posed a threat to a robust American foreign policy that he said was vital to Israel’s interests.
Pence, the former vice president, elicited gasps and cries of “We love you!” when he addressed a presidential forum at the annual Republican Jewish Coalition conference in Las Vegas.
“I came here to say it’s become clear to me this is not my time,” Pence said.
Pence could not bring himself to mention the name of Trump, who is scheduled to speak later Saturday and who is far and away the favorite to win the nomination, even when he was reviewing the record of what he called the most “pro-Israel administration” in American history.
But, after delivering the expected exhortation in this partisan forum to remove President Joe Biden, Pence made clear that he did not want Trump to retake the office, framing his concerns in the context of Israel’s war with Hamas.
“Will Republicans continue to be the party of the traditional conservatives that has defined our movement of the past 40 years or will our party follow the siren song of populism unmoored to conservative principles?” Pence said.
“A new populist movement in the Republican Party says that America should retreat from her leadership position, turn inward and focus solely on domestic concerns,” he said. “Let me say from my heart, anyone who says that America cannot solve our problems at home and be the leader of the free world., there’s a pretty small view of the greatest nation that we have. We must and we will do both for the sake of America Israel and the world.”
Trump has not said yet how his calls to reduce the American footprint overseas would affect assistance to Israel. He has distanced himself from some of the most robust pro-Israel figures ing his term, including Nikki Haley, the former U.N. ambassador, Mike Pompeo, the former Secretary of State, as well as Pence.
Trump’s most profound falling-out with Pence was on Jan. 6, 2021, when Pence rebuffed Trump’s exhortations to throw the election to Trump during the congressional review of electoral votes, something Pence was not empowered to do. Trump’s urgings spurred a violent insurrection, with some rioters seeking Pence’s assassination,.
Another candidate, Vivek Ramaswamy, has explicitly called for cutting funding to Israel.
Trump’s slogan since 2016, when he and Pence won the election, has been “America First,” a phrase that has echoes in an antisemitic movement of the 1930s and 1940s led by Charles Lindbergh.
In his current campaign, Trump has favored retreat from the international scene and has mocked Israel’s leadership for how it handled Hamas’ deadly Oct. 7 invasion. He has called the Hezbollah terrorist movement, which is engaging with Israel from the north, “smart.”