Kasich Jabs Trump Over Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: 'We Cannot Be Neutral'

PHOTO: John Kasich (R) talks with the press after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahus address to a joint meeting of Congress in the House chamber, March 3, 2015. PlayTom Williams/CQ Roll Call via Getty Images
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Republican presidential hopeful John Kasich told the nation's most powerful pro-Israel lobbying group today that the United States "cannot be neutral in defending our allies,” a clear jab at his rival Donald Trump, who recently said he would be “neutral" in dealing with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Kasich has over the past two weeks become more outspoken against Trump, who made the remarks about Israel last month, although he rushed through the line about neutrality today to little applause. The third remaining Republican presidential candidate, Sen. Ted Cruz, has pounced on Trump's remark, and Hillary Clinton, who is running for president on the Democratic side, criticized the comment in her remarks before the American Israel Public Affairs Committee conference today. "We need steady hands, not a president who says he's neutral on Monday, pro-Israel on Tuesday, and who knows what on Wednesday because everything's negotiable," she said.

The Ohio governor also told attendees at a conference convened by AIPAC in Washington today that he believes the Iran nuclear deal should be suspended. He had long said that it was unrealistic to think the deal could be torn up, as some of his rivals had called for, but two weeks ago said that Iran's recent ballistic missile tests should lead to the suspension of the deal.

“These tests were both a violation of the spirit of the nuclear deal and provocations that can no longer be ignored,” he said to rousing applause.

Kasich, a former congressman who frequently touts his 18 years on the U.S. House's Committee on the Armed Services, has repeatedly said on the campaign trail that ISIS poses a serious threat to the United States, and today argued that “it is a threat to all civilization." If he was elected president, Kasich has said he would commit U.S. troops to fight ISIS and support NATO and regional coalitions. Today, he explained that fight -- which he said would be led by U.S.-supported coalitions after American troops leave -- would encompass Iraq, Syria, Libya, Egypt and Afghanistan.

Kasich also referred to Jerusalem as Israel’s “eternal capital,” a phrase used to signal opposition to dividing the city as part of any deal between Israel and the Palestinians.

"The American friends of Israel are not fair-weather friends,” Kasich said. "They recognize the strategic hinge with Israel, and that America's and Israel's interests are tightly intertwined, despite our inevitable disagreements from time to time.”