Democratic presidential hopeful Beto O’Rourke hit the campaign trail in Iowa over the weekend and made headlines for calling Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a “racist” who stands in the way of brokering a peace deal with Palestinians.
O’Rourke said Israel is one of the most vitally important relationships to the United States “on the planet” but then accused Netanyahu of partisanship and of being anti-Arab, according to according to CNN.
“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, according to CNN.
CNN said it reached out to the Israeli Embassy in Washington for a response to O’Rourke’s comments.
In accusatory and wide-spanning criticism of Netanyahu, O’Rourke said he didn’t believe continued, saying he did not believe the prime minister represented “the true will of the Israeli people” nor had the “best interests” of the U.S. – Israel relationship at heart. O’Rourke told his supporters that he backed a two-state plan as the best option to accomplish peace between Israel and the Palestinians.
“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 reportedly said, according to CNN. “It is the best opportunity for the full human rights of everyone who is living in that region.”
After the comments to potential voters, O’Rourke was interviewed by the media. In response to a reporter’s question about conflict in the region, O’Rourke once again criticized Netanyahu, but also added that the Palestinian Authority was not faultless.
Last month, Netanyahu visited Donald Trump and watched as Trump signed a proclamation which officially acknowledged that the U.S. recognized Israel sovereignty over Golan Heights, which Israel seized from Syria in the 1960s, according to The Daily Mail. Trump’s proclamation was significant in that it reversed decades of U.S. policy but was seen as a political ploy to help Netanyahu who is hoping to get reelected on April 9.
Trump also used a recent talk before a conservative Jewish lobbying group to insinuate that the Democrats are anti-Semitic and that if a Democratic president is elected in 2020, suggesting it would leave Israel vulnerable.