ABC News’ Bret Hovell Reports: Senator John McCain told an audience Tuesday at the annual Christians United for Israel Summit in Washington, D.C., that Israel "is literally surrounded by enemies bent on its destruction."
Israel, he said, "is probably under more duress and more difficulties than perhaps they have ever been in the history of that country."
"The state of Israel has never needed your support and your hopes and your prayers they way they need it today," McCain said. "And God bless you for your commitment."
In his remarks, McCain enumerated the threats to the state of Israel, and also, took the opportunity to call for a continued commitment in the war in Iraq.
"The best of America is now defending freedom in Iraq and Afghanistan," McCain said. "We ought to give them a chance to succeed."
McCain told the group that radicalized Islamic extremists are a force of evil "opposed to everything we stand for and believe in."
"My friends, this is a long struggle, we will win, but this is the greatest force of evil perhaps we have ever faced," McCain said. "But we must prevail and we can prevail."
This was not an official campaign stop for McCain, the Arizona Republican who is seeking his party’s presidential nomination, but rather a speech given by McCain in his role as senator. He never once mentioned that he was running for president, or asked for a vote.
While he kept his remarks to the topics at hand — terrorism, Iraq and his support for Israel — he did borrow a few elements from his stump speech, saying at one point, "I’d like to give you a little straight talk," and alluding to the hope that Ronald Reagan, whom he calls a political hero, brought to the country when he ran for president.
"I believe that our best days are ahead of us," Senator McCain said, in his role as candidate. "I know that the best days are ahead of us."
He was warmly received by the crowd, which was told that McCain was there to deliver a "surprise speech."
In remarks lasting a little more than ten minutes, McCain was interrupted three times for standing ovations, including when he talked about American troops fighting overseas. But it was his focus on the topic at hand that earned him the most appreciation from the audience.
"If we fail in Israel," McCain asked, "where will we succeed?"