LAS VEGAS – Vice President Mike Pence on Friday forcefully condemned a string of anti-Semitic acts of vandalism across the country, telling a group of powerful Jewish Republicans that such acts had “no place” in the country.
“Let me be very clear: We condemn these acts of vandalism and the people that perpetrated these acts in the strongest possible terms,” Pence told a Republican Jewish Coalition gathering here. “Hatred and anti-Semitism have no place in American society.”
Pence’s remarks come at a time of growing unease among many Jewish Americans, who have witnessed numerous acts of anti-Semitism in recent months. The vice president addressed the gathering just days after he visited a Jewish cemetery outside of St. Louis that had been desecrated.
While Pence has spoken out against vandalism, President Donald Trump has been far quieter on the matter – something that has drawn criticism from members of both parties. During a visit to the National Museum of African-American History and Culture this week, however, Trump offered his most forceful words on the subject yet, saying that “the anti-Semitic threats targeting our Jewish community and community centers are horrible and are painful and a very sad reminder of the work that still must be done to root out hate and prejudice and evil.”
Pence ventured here to speak before a conservative organization that is heavily funded by casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, a prolific Republican Party contributor who spent tens of millions of dollars in support of Trump’s campaign. While Pence spoke, Adelson and his wife, Miriam, sat at a front-row table.
Addressing a topic on the minds of many, Pence reaffirmed that the U.S. would vigorously support Israel’s national security – yet he declined to say whether any accord would necessitate the creation of a Palestinian state.
“President Trump is personally invested in forging a lasting peace in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” he said. “Under President Trump, let me assure you: America will support the negotiation process, but as the president said, any agreement must be reached by both sides.
“While there will undoubtedly have to be compromises, know this: The Trump administration will never compromise the safety and security of the Jewish state of Israel,” he added.
His remarks come at a time of growing confusion about the Trump administration’s approach to a peace process, which the president has vowed to renew. Appearing with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last week, Trump said that he was examining either a one-state solution or a two-state solution, but that he hadn’t reached any conclusions. “I like the one that both parties like. I’m very happy with the one that both parties like,” he said. “I can live with either one.”
The president’s remarks represented a break from the long-held view in foreign policy circles that a successful peace accord would require the establishment of two states.
In an interview with Reuters earlier this week, Trump broached the Middle East question again – this time stating that he liked the idea of a two-state solution, but that “I ultimately like what the both parties like.”
In his speech on Friday evening, Pence appeared to be echoing Trump’s approach of not articulating whether an agreement should include the creation of a Palestinian state, and instead letting the Israelis and Palestinians reach that decision on their own. The vice president said he spoke about the peace process earlier in the day with Adelson.
Pence declined to address another key question: Whether the administration would move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, something that the president promised while campaigning but has yet to do. The vice president would only say the administration was still “assessing” the matter.
Pence was introduced by former Vice President Dick Cheney, who is also attending the annual conference. The two briefly met privately earlier in the evening.