LAS VEGAS, Nevada — Newly-installed Speaker of the House Mike Johnson (R-LA) delivered his first major public address as Speaker to the Republican Jewish Coalition annual summit Saturday night, declaring: “We are going to stand like a rock with our friend, and ally, Israel.”
Johnson acknowledged that the meeting was his first public event as Speaker since being elected on Wednesday. He said he had been deeply moved by the stories of Israelis who had survived attacks by the “demonic” Palestinian terror group Hamas.
Drawing on his own religious faith — for which he has been mocked by critics — Johnson declared: “I believe that God is not done with America yet, and I know He’s not done with Israel.”
“We have a moment to rebuild the trust of the people and restore their faith in who we are, and what we’re fighting for,” Johnson said.
Johnson replaced Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), who also addressed last year’s Republican Jewish Coalition gathering, and who was a noted friend of Israel.
Johnson promised to continue in that vein. “It’s no accident that my first resolution was for Israel, and my first trip was to come and be with you,” he said, drawing a standing ovation. “I want everybody to know where we stand.”
He noted the anti-Israel views of a small but growing faction within the Democratic Party caucus in the House, which he said were a manifestation of rising antisemitism in Congress, in universities, and in the media.
Johnson also brought a message for the UN: “There will be a cease-fire only when Hamas ceases to be a threat to Israel.”
He spoke of the deep religious roots of the alliance between the U.S. and Israel, and the Biblical teaching that those who bless Israel will be blessed themselves.
House Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-LA) also addressed the gathering, introducing Johnson. Scalise, himself a survivor of an attempted mass shooting in 2017, told the gathering that the turmoil of the Republican caucus of the past three weeks would not prevent the GOP from advancing legislation to respond to the Hamas terror attacks. One bill, he said, would prevent the Biden administration from transferring control of $6 billion in assets to Iran, which had been part of Biden’s recent hostage agreement.
Republican Jewish Coalition CEO Matt Brooks said that this year’s summit had been the “best event and most important event” in the organization’s history, given the context of the war in Israel. He pointed out an empty table that had been set in the center of the room, symbolizing the 230 Israel hostages and many more people missing since the October 7 Hamas terrorist attack.
He thanked the Republican leaders who had flown out to the conference to express their solidarity — including all eight of the major presidential candidates (now seven, after former Vice President Mike Pence dropped out at the event during his speech).
Earlier in the evening, Rabbi Leo Dee of Israel, who lost his wife Lucy and daughters Maia and Rina in a terror attack earlier this year, received the Defender of Freedom & Security Award. Dee addressed the gathering via video from Israel. He called for an end to the Palestinian Authority’s policy of paying the families of terrorists who kill or try to kill Israelis. He said an “anti-truth” had been created, in which the only free country in the region, Israel, was portrayed as an evil regime — by evil regimes themselves.
Eli Beer, the CEO of the United Hatzalah first responders, told the stories of members of his organization who were killed or wounded in attempting to treat the wounded during the October 7 terror attack. The first, Awad, was an Arab volunteer who was “tortured to death,” Beer said, when the terrorists found him as he was applying a tourniquet to a wounded Israeli woman. Two other volunteers were kidnapped, and were wounded or lost family members.
Beer said that he had found a pregnant woman whose stomach had been cut open, and whose unborn child had been stabbed in front of her and her other children before they were all murdered. He talked of finding the headless corpses of children, such that “we don’t know which head belonged to which kid”; he spoke of children found burned to death in ovens; he spoke of crying children used as bait to lure rescuers to their deaths.
“We paid a heavy price, but we are going to continue and save more and more lives, as long as they need us,” Beer concluded.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News and the host of Breitbart News Sunday on Sirius XM Patriot on Sunday evenings from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. ET (4 p.m. to 7 p.m. PT). He is the author of the new biography, Rhoda: ‘Comrade Kadalie, You Are Out of Order’. He is also the author of the recent e-book, Neither Free nor Fair: The 2020 U.S. Presidential Election. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.