Israel’s foreign minister denounced Democratic front-runner Bernie Sanders on Wednesday for what he called his “horrifying comment” about Yerushalayim, saying that those who support Israel would not back Sanders’ presidential candidacy after such remarks.
At a contentious Democratic debate on Tuesday night in South Carolina, Sanders labeled Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu a “reactionary racist” and said he’d consider reversing President Donald Trump’s move of the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Yerushalayim.
In a daring foray into American domestic politics, Israeli Foreign Minister Yisrael Katz said there was a not a Jew in the world who “hasn’t dreamed of Jerusalem” and Sanders words were so severe that he had no choice but to retort.
“We don’t intervene in the internal American electoral process, which is splendid,” Katz told Israel’s Army Radio, before noting that Sanders had a long history of attacking Israel and the things most sacred to its identity and national security.
“Naturally, people who support Israel will not support someone who goes against these things,” he added.
Netanyahu himself was more restrained in his response:
“I am not intervening in the U.S. election,” Netanyahu replied when asked on Army Radio about what an interviewer termed Sanders’ personal attack on him.
Pressed further for his thoughts about Sanders, Netanyahu said: “What I think about this matter is that he is definitely wrong. No question about it.”
Asked about possible confrontation with Sanders should the self-described democratic socialist win the White House, Netanyahu said that as prime minister he had stood up to U.S. presidential opposition to his policies before and would be able to do so again.
Sanders’ comments at the debate came after he recently announced he would skip an appearance before the pro-Israel lobby AIPAC, which he called a “platform for bigotry.”
He’s also called for cutting back American foreign aid to Israel and redirecting it to the Palestinians instead. Sanders, who if elected would become America’s first Jewish president, doubled down Tuesday saying, “What you cannot ignore is the suffering of the Palestinian people.”
Sanders prefaced his remarks by saying he was “very proud of being Jewish,” and noted how he had volunteered in the 1960s on an Israeli kibbutz, where he honed his leftist leanings. But his harsh criticism of modern-day Israeli policies, and embrace of supporters who have called for a boycott of Israel, has raised great concerns in the Jewish state about his surging candidacy. Pro-Israel advocates have accused some of Sanders’ prominent supporters of anti-Semitism, such as Linda Sarsour, who has served as an official Sanders campaign surrogate.
Yair Lapid, a leading opposition figure who aims to replace Katz as foreign minister after next week’s Israeli election, said in a recent interview that he was “very worried” about Sanders’ rise because of his “lack of understanding of our unique situation in the Middle East.”
Michael Bloomberg, another Jewish candidate seeking the Democratic nomination, said at Tuesday’s debate that it was too late to reverse the embassy move and people should instead focus on advancing a two-state solution. Bloomberg will speak at AIPAC, the lobby announced Tuesday.
Updated Wednesday, February 26, 2020 at 4:34 pm netanyahu comment