Beto O’Rourke made one of the sharpest criticisms yet in the 2020 race of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu: The Democratic presidential candidate outright called him “racist.”
O’Rourke said at a campaign event in Iowa Sunday that Netanyahu did not represent the best interests of the U.S.-Israel relationship, which he called globally important. O’Rourke also said he endorsed a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict.
"That relationship, if it is to be successful, must transcend partisanship in the United States, and it must be able to transcend a prime minister, who is racist, as he warns about Arabs coming to the polls; who wants to defy any prospect for peace as he threatens to annex the West Bank; and who has sided with a far-right, racist party in order to maintain his hold on power," O'Rourke said.
Ahead of Tuesday’s election in Israel, Netanyahu said he would annex Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank, a blatant play to his far-right supporters and a display of hostility to the idea of a two-state solution, which O’Rourke said the U.S. should support.
"We must be able to transcend his current leadership to make sure that that alliance is strong, that we continue to push for and settle for nothing less than a two-state solution, because that is the best opportunity for peace for the people of Israel and the people of Palestine," O'Rourke said.
O’Rourke’s comments are another example of a growing willingness among Democrats to condemn the Israeli government’s human-rights abuses in occupied Palestinian territories. Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota has emerged as the most prominent Israel critic in the U.S. government and has been accused of anti-Semitism over her pushback of the country and its relationship with the U.S. At this year’s American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) policy conference, many 2020 Democrats declined to attend, and others kept their distance.
President Donald Trump, meanwhile, is becoming an increasingly deferential ally to Netanyahu. Breaking with longstanding U.S. foreign policy, Trump signed a proclamation last month that the U.S. should “fully recognize” the Golan Heights, a Syrian territory captured by Israel in 1967, as an Israeli territory.
Cover image: Democratic presidential candidate and former Texas congressman Beto O'Rourke speaks during a campaign event in Sioux City, Iowa, on Thursday, April 4, 2019. (Justin Wan/Sioux City Journal via AP)