WASHINGTON – Senator Bernie Sanders, who is currently leading in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination, said in Tuesday's debate in South Carolina that he would consider reversing U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to move the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, adding that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is “a reactionary racist.”
Bernie, Bibi and the brutal occupation: Listen to Gideon Levy
When asked whether he would move the U.S. Embassy from Jerusalem, Sanders replied that “it’s something we need to take into consideration.” He then added that he is “very proud of being Jewish” and that he “actually lived in Israel for several months,” referring to his volunteering in a kibbutz in northern Israel in the 1960’s.
Sanders said, however, that “right now, sadly, tragically, Israel has a reactionary racist who is now running that country,” referring to Netanyahu. Sanders added that if is elected president, he would “absolutely protect the independence and security of Israel, but we cannot ignore the suffering of the Palestinians.”
Sanders also made headlines in Israel earlier this week, announcing that he won’t attend the annual AIPAC conference next week because the organization gives a platform to “leaders who express bigotry and oppose basic rights” for the Palestinian people.
Former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg, who announced hours before the debate that he, unlike Sanders, will speak at AIPAC’s conference next week, told Sanders that he "can’t move the embassy back [to Tel Aviv]. We should not have done it without getting something from the Israelis in return, but it was done and we need to leave it there.” Bloomberg added that the only solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a two-state solution that will lead to the creation of a Palestinian state next to Israel.
Senator Elizabeth Warren, another leading candidate in the Democratic Party's presidential primary, said that “Israel has a right to security and the Palestinians have a right to be treated with respect and to have self-determination.” Warren added that the United States shouldn't be the one deciding for the Israelis and the Palestinians what will be the terms of an agreement, but rather that it should encourage direct negotiations between the two sides.
The South Carolina primary will take place on Saturday, with current polls there showing a tight race between Sanders and former Vice President Joe Biden. On March 3, primaries in 15 different states will be held at once in what is known as Super Tuesday, a key date on the Democratic Party’s primary calendar.