Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders said he believes Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu‘s government is racist during a speech at J Street’s 2019 National Conference on Monday. Sanders presented himself as a pro-Israel candidate and said he hopes to become the nation’s first Jewish President.
“It’s not anti-semitism to say that the Netanyahu government has been racist. That’s a fact,” said Sen. Sanders.
The Democratic socialist was welcomed by the group, which advocates for a two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinians. J Street is openly critical of Netanyahu’s government and the so-called “Israeli occupation” and regularly takes aim at Israel’s “settlements and creeping annexation.”
The U.S. spends nearly $3.8 billion annually in foreign aid to the Jewish State, which is part of a 10 year aid deal between the two Democratic countries passed by congress earlier this year. Sen. Sanders criticized that. His plan is conditional: ask the Jewish state to improve conditions in Gaza, or else.
“My solution is to say to Israel, you get $3.8 billion every single year. If you want military aid, you’re going to have to fundamentally change your relationship to the people of Gaza.” said Sanders, “In fact, I think it is fair to say that some of that $3.8 billion should go right now into humanitarian aid in Gaza.”
The U.S.-Israel alliance serves America’s interests. We benefit from the close bonds between the governments and peoples. Name-calling by political leaders against the democratically elected government of Israel is counterproductive to maintaining close ties and advancing peace.
— AIPAC (@AIPAC) April 23, 2019
Sen. Sanders, who hopes to become the nation’s first Jewish president, has been criticized by pro-Israel lobby American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). Earlier this year, the lobby took aim at Sen. Sanders for calling Netanyahu’s government racist during a CNN town hall.
“The goal must be to try to bring people together and not just support one country, which is now run by a right-wing, dare I say racist government,” Sen. Sanders said at the event in Manchester, NH.
Sanders’ tune hasn’t changed. In recent weeks, he’s been endorsed by Rep. Ilhan Omar and Rep. Rashida Tlaib, who have both come under fire this year for touting anti-semitic tropes bashing the Jewish state and Jewish loyalty to the State. Moreover, they were barred from entry into Israel for openly instigating boycotts against the Jewish state.