Bernie Sanders: Netanyahu Only Passed Nation-state Law Because He Knew Trump Had His Back

Presenting Trump and Netanyahu as part of 'authoritarian axis' that includes Hungary's Orban and Russia's Putin, senator blasts both leaders for receiving Sheldon Adelson's support in op-ed for The Guardian

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders.
INTS KALNINS/Reuters and Bloomberg

WASHINGTON - Senator Bernie Sanders says that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu supported the controversial nation-state law only because he knew that he had the unconditional support of U.S. President Donald Trump. Sanders made the statement in a lengthy article that was published on Thursday in The Guardian. The article depicted Trump and Netanyahu as part of an international “authoritarian axis” that also includes leaders such as Hungary’s Viktor Orban and Russia’s Vladimir Putin.

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Sanders opened his article by explaining how Trump’s rise to power has given authoritarian leaders around the world a feeling that they could do anything they wanted, since the United States was no longer committed to democracy and human rights. He gave a number of examples, including how the Trump administration didn’t support Canada after the country got into a heated exchange with Saudi Arabia over Riyadh’s harsh treatment of civil and feminist activists. 

With regards to Israel, Sanders specifically mentioned the nation-state law, which was passed by the Knesset this summer. He wrote that the law hurts Israel’s non-Jewish citizens, and that Netanyahu wouldn’t have passed it under previous U.S. administrations, but felt comfortable to do it with Trump in the White House. 

“It’s hard to imagine that Israel’s Netanyahu government would have moved to pass the recent nation-state law, which essentially codifies the second-class status of Israel’s non-Jewish citizens, if Benjamin Netanyahu didn’t know Trump would have his back,” Sanders wrote in the article. 

Later in the article, Sanders mentioned another link between Trump and Netanyahu: the support both of them receive from gambling billionaire Sheldon Adelson, who has been Trump’s top political donor, and has subsidized a freely distributed daily newspaper in Israel that he is considered Netanyahu’s mouthpiece. “Republican mega donor Sheldon Adelson gives generously to right-wing causes in both the United States and Israel, promoting a shared agenda of intolerance and illiberalism in both countries,” Sanders wrote. 

Sanders’ main argument in the article is that just like the right-wing forces which support Trump, Netanyahu and Orban work together across international borders, so should the groups opposing these leaders. Sanders has criticized Netanyahu and Trump over the past year for their policies towards Gaza.