Beto O’Rourke Says No Chance for Peace With Current Palestinian, Israeli Leadership

Netanyahu 'has openly sided with racists' and Abbas is 'ineffectual,' leading Democratic presidential candidate says

Former Texas congressman Beto O'Rourke gestures during a campaign stop at Keene State College in Keene, New Hampshire, Tuesday, March 19, 2019.
AP/Charles Krupa

WASHINGTON - Beto O’Rourke, one of the leading presidential contenders within the Democratic Party, said on Tuesday that he doesn’t believe Israel or the Palestinian Authority currently have the right leadership for promoting a peace agreement.

O’Rourke, a former Democratic member of Congress from Texas, addressed the Israeli-Palestinian issue during a visit to New Hampshire, one of the earliest states to vote in next year’s Democratic primary.

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While stating he supports a two-state solution to the conflict, O'Rourke said he doesn’t see it happening as long as the current leadership in both Israel and the PA remains in power. “I believe in peace and dignity and full human rights for the Palestinian people and the Israeli people. The only way to achieve that is a two-state solution,” he said.

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O’Rourke then explained why he doesn’t see any movement towards peace in the current political climate. “Right now we don’t have the best negotiating partners on either side. We have a prime minister in Israel who has openly sided with racists,” he said, referring to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s political alignment with the far-right Kahanist Otzma Yehudit party.

He also mentioned Netanyahu’s infamous campaign ad released on Election Day in 2015, in which Netanyahu warned that Israel’s Arab citizens were voting in the election. “He (Netanyahu) warned that the Arab voters are coming to the polls,” O’Rourke said.

“On the Palestinian side,” he added, “we have an ineffectual leader. Mahmoud Abbas has not been very effective in bringing his side to the table.” Abbas has been boycotting the Trump administration for more than a year now, ever since U.S. President Donald Trump announced that he “took Jerusalem off the table” by recognizing the city as the capital of Israel.

Abbas and Netanyahu have not met since October 2016.

During the New Hampshire event, O’Rourke was also asked about donations he had received from pro-Israeli donors during his previous runs for Congress and his attempt to win a Senate seat in 2018. He replied: “If you’re asking if the contributions I accept connect to the policies I support, the answer is no.”

In his first 24 hours as an official presidential candidates, O’Rourke raised more than $6 million for his campaign, mostly from small donors over the internet. No other Democratic candidate running in the current election has managed to raise a similar sum within such a short period of time.