Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee got loud cheers tonight speaking at a New York City fundraiser for a Jewish settlement in the West Bank, including sustained applause when he said it was not the president's job to prioritize protecting "the reputation of Islam."
"I believe that the next president should never believe somehow that it is the job of the United States president as commander-in-chief to protect the reputation of Islam more than it is to protect the people of the United States of America from radical Islam," Huckabee told hundreds of attendees at a gala for Beit El, a Jewish settlement in the West Bank. His voice was hoarse, and he explained to the heavily Jewish, religious audience at a hotel in Times Square that he had laryngitis.
It's not the first time Huckabee has courted this niche audience. He's ventured to Israel and the West Bank dozens of times since the 1970s -- he has even led tours there -- and in August, he held a fundraiser for his presidential campaign at another Jewish settlement in the West Bank.
Tonight, he called for the United States to move its embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and to pardon Jonathan Pollard, a convicted spy who was recently released from federal prison.
The gala raised money for Bet El Institutions, which supports schools, media organizations and other institutions in Beit El. The Jewish settlement is located in the West Bank north of Jerusalem and near the Palestinian city of Ramallah. The international community considers it illegal.
At the dinner, Huckabee also criticized a New York Daily News cover lambasting politicians for sharing their "thoughts and prayers" after the recent shooting in San Bernardino, California, saying it mocked prayer.
"My answer to the New York Daily News as to the failure of prayer is to say you might need to keep looking, and look in the direction of Israel," Huckabee said.
Huckabee called earlier today for a "national day of prayer for San Bernardino" to be held on Friday.
"For reasons of political correctness, the only prayers that seem immune to criticism right now are ones directed towards Mecca," Huckabee said in an email to supporters today.
"I believe the help comes from God, and I’m not ashamed to say it," Huckabee said in the email. "If that invokes the contempt and ridicule of others, so be it. But it doesn’t hurt for those in San Bernardino to know millions of people sincerely and unapologetically have them in their prayers."
It was the first night of Chanukah tonight, and two candles burned on a menorah on the lectern in front of him as he spoke at the gala. Huckabee left the stage with the help of a cane; he recently had surgery on his knee.