TEL AVIV – Sen. Bernie Sanders sparked ire from the pro-Israel group AIPAC and Israeli ministers for smearing Benjamin Netanyahu’s government as “racist.”
AIPAC slammed Sanders for “name-calling.”
“The US-Israel alliance serves America’s interests,” AIPAC said Tuesday on Twitter.
“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.”
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
Sanders on Monday claimed at a CNN town hall event for Democratic candidates that he was “100 percent pro-Israel,” but at the moment the Jewish state, he charged, had a right-wing, racist government.
“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,” he exclaimed to applause.
“What I believe is not radical,” Sanders told the crowd. “I just believe that the United States should deal with the Middle East on a level playing field basis.”
Israeli cabinet minister Tzachi Hanegbi told Israel’s Channel 13 news that Sanders’ remarks were “strange.”
“The remarks deserve every condemnation. They don’t represent the general feeling of the Democratic Party even among the moderate liberal wing,” said Hanegbi, the minister for regional cooperation.
“Israel’s government is not a racist government. There isn’t a single racist minister. Sanders should hold back on what he’s saying,” he added. “Being right-wing is not forbidden. It’s strange that the Democratic party would allow one of its members to not respect the democratic choices of Israel.”
Republican Jewish Coalition Executive Director Matt Brooks described Sanders’ comments as “absurd and offensive.”
“We won’t let Israel become a punching bag for Democrats to score points with their radical base.”
In the run-up to Israel’s national elections earlier this month, Sanders told NBC news that he was “not a great fan” of Netanyahu, and added that he hoped Netanyahu would lose the election.