2020 Hopeful Bernie Sanders Says Netanyahu Leads 'Racist Government'

'The U.S. gives billions of dollars in military aid to Israel. It should deal with the Middle East on a level-playing-field basis,' Democratic senator tells CNN

File photo: Democratic presidential candidate, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, participates in a FOX News Town Hall at SteelStacks in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania on April 15, 2019.
Mark Makela/Getty Images/AFP

WASHINGTON — Sen. Bernie Sanders, who is running to become the Democratic presidential nominee for 2020, said Monday that Israel is currently run by a “right-wing, racist government.”

Sanders said during an appearance on CNN that he supports Israel’s right to exist and considers himself pro-Israel, but doesn’t support the policies of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who was reelected for a fourth consecutive term earlier this month. 

“As a young man I spent a number of months in Israel. I worked on a kibbutz for a while,” Sanders said, in response to a question on his views regarding the Jewish state. “I have family in Israel. I am not anti-Israel. But the fact of the matter is that Netanyahu is a right-wing politician who, I think, is treating the Palestinians extremely unfairly.”

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Sanders, who is Jewish, then added: “The United States gives billions of dollars in military aid to Israel. I just believe that the U.S. should deal with the Middle East on a level-playing-field basis. In other words, the goal must be to try to bring people together and not just support one country, which is now run by a right-wing and, dare I say, racist government.”

Sanders is not the only prominent Democratic candidate to use such language to describe Netanyahu and his new government. Former Congressman Beto O’Rourke said last month that Netanyahu is racist, pointing to the Israeli premier’s political pact with the far-right Otzma Yehudit party, now a part of the Union of Right-Wing Parties, ahead of Israel's general election, and to his "warning that Arab voters are going to the polls" in their droves in 2015.

Other Democratic candidates who have directly criticized Netanyahu in recent months include senators Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez also criticized Netanyahu's policies recently, calling for a discussion on reducing military and economic aid to Israel.