Israel is feeling the Bern now: The Democrat frontrunner to become the party’s candidate for president said if elected he would consider returning the U.S. Embassy to Tel Aviv and he called Israel’s prime minister a racist.
“Right now sadly, tragically in Israel through Bibi Netanyahu, you have a reactionary racist who is now running that country,” Bernie Sanders said at a Democrat primary presidential debate in South Carolina. Bibi is a nickname for Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister.
U.S. President Donald Trump relocated the American embassy to Jerusalem in 2018 in recognition of the city as Israel’s capital.
In another move concerning to Israel, Sanders said earlier this week he will not attend the pro-Israel lobby, American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), conference traditionally attended by all presidential hopefuls.
“The Israeli people have the right to live in peace and security. So do the Palestinian people,” the Jewish senator from Vermont wrote on Twitter. “I remain concerned about the platform AIPAC provides for leaders who express bigotry and oppose basic Palestinian rights. For that reason, I will not attend their conference. As president, I will support the rights of both Israelis and Palestinians and do everything possible to bring peace and security to the region.”
As expected, AIPAC blasted Sanders.
“By engaging in such an odious attack on this mainstream, bipartisan American political event, Senator Sanders is insulting his very own colleagues and the millions of Americans who stand with Israel,” AIPAC spokesman Marshall Wittmann said. “Truly shameful.”
Sanders isn’t alone. Another Democrat candidate, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, also said earlier she would not attend.
Traditionally, in an election year all of the candidates will be invited to speak at AIPAC — both Democrats and Republicans.
It is not surprising that Sanders announced he would not attend. The left-winger has spoken at the liberal Jewish lobby J Street conference. Despite being Jewish and having lived on a kibbutz, Sanders has been a critic of Israel and has called for cutting American aid to the Jewish state.
It would be a mistake to look at Bernie Sanders and think, “Jewish—so I should listen to him on Israel.” Bernie’s religion socialism and it has been for a very long time. He did live on an Israeli kibbutz for a few months when he was young, but that is because the kibbutz system (collective farm) is based on communism, where incentive is low and everything is shared. And it failed miserably after Israeli became a state. Without the government stepping in to help, there would only be a handful of kibbutzim (plural) left in Israel.
[Listen to Ron’s podcast series on kibbutzim: https://roncan.net/2vkCxmN]
“I would use the leverage of $3.8 billion,” he said in October. “It is a lot of money, and we cannot give it carte blanche to the Israeli government, or for that matter to any government at all. We have a right to demand respect for human rights and democracy.”
The hawkish former National Security Adviser John Bolton responded to Sanders’ AIPAC comment this week: “What’s next? @IlhanMN as Sec of State?” referring to Ilhan Omar, the anti-Semitic Muslim senator from Minnesota.
Former North Carolina Governor and U.S. Ambassador to the United Nation Nikki Haley called out the Democrat senator on Twitter.
“Bernie Sanders announces he is not going to @AIPAC. To be clear, has never attended and has no clue what the organization is about or what it stands for. Go back to defending Castro and socialist dictators. We will go back to defending peace, democracy, and our ally Israel.”
Even Jennifer Rubin, a columnist for the Washington Post, said Sanders made an egregious misstep with AIPAC.
“Sanders could simply have declined to go. He could have stuck by his initial matter-of-fact statement objecting to AIPAC’s stances. Instead he chose to demonize AIPAC,” she wrote. “His inflammatory attack has already alarmed many Democrats, even critics of AIPAC, and Trump will certainly use Sanders’s extreme view toward the United States’ closest ally in the region against him in the election, not unfairly, to demonstrate that Sanders would injure an important U.S. relationship.”