In Florida, Trump says he's Israel's best pal in White House

US President Donald Trump at the Israeli American Council National Summit 2019 at the Diplomat Beach Resort Florida, on Dec 7, 2019. PHOTO: AFP

HOLLYWOOD (AP) - President Donald Trump said on Saturday (Dec 7) that Israel has never had a better friend in the White House than him because, unlike his predecessors, "I kept my promises."

Mr Trump energised an audience that numbered in the hundreds at the Israeli American Council National Summit in Florida by recounting his record on issues of importance to Jews, including an extensive riff on his promise to recognise Jerusalem as the Israeli capital and relocate the US Embassy there from Tel Aviv.

Both Israel and Palestine claim parts of Jerusalem for their future capital.

Mr Trump said his predecessors had promised to move the embassy but only paid lip service to the issue.

"They never had any intention of doing it, in my opinion," he said. "But unlike other presidents, I kept my promises."

He also highlighted his decision earlier this year to reverse more than a half-century of US policy in the Middle East by recognising Israel's sovereignty over the Golan Heights, the strategic highlands on the border with Syria.

The Israeli American Council is financially backed by some of Mr Trump's top supporters, Las Vegas casino magnate Sheldon Adelson and his wife Miriam.

Both Adelsons appeared on stage to introduce Mr Trump, with Mrs Adelson asserting that he "has already gone down in the annals of Jewish history, and that is before he's even completed his first term in office".

The Adelsons donated US$30 million (S$40.8 million) to Mr Trump's campaign in the final months of the 2016 race. They followed up by donating US$100 million to the Republican Party for last November's congressional elections.

Mr Trump criticised Israel's sworn enemy, Iran, saying he withdrew the US from the Iran nuclear deal with other world powers because Teheran must never be allowed to obtain a nuclear weapon.

But he voiced support for Iranian citizens who have been protesting against a decision by their government to withdraw fuel subsidies, which sent prices skyrocketing.

Mr Trump said that he believes thousands of Iranians have been killed in the protests and that thousands more have been arrested.

"America will always stand with the Iranian people in their righteous struggle for freedom," he said.

The president introduced his son-in-law and senior adviser, Mr Jared Kushner, who has played a leading role in helping the administration craft its Mid-East peace plan.

A self-described deal-maker, Mr Trump said he had long been told that achieving peace between Israel and the Palestinians would be the hardest deal of all.

But "if Jared Kushner can't do it, it can't be done", he said.

The White House has said its Mid-East peace plan is complete and had promised to release it after Israeli elections in September. The long-delayed plan remains under wraps, and Israel appears headed for its third round of elections this year.

The plan also is facing rejection by Palestinian officials, who object to the pro-Israel leanings of the Trump administration.

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