WASHINGTON – Three of the leading Democratic presidential candidates criticized U.S. President Donald Trump for his Middle East policy, and attacked Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for his three corruption cases and his right-wing policies during a televised debate on Thursday night.
When asked about Israel, Senator Bernie Sanders said that he supports its right to exist "in peace and security." Sanders, who are Jewish, also mentioned the fact that he lived in Israel for several months as a young man, volunteering in a Kibbutz.
Sanders added, however, that "U.S. foreign policy is not just being pro-Israeli; we must be pro-Palestinian as well." Sanders criticized Netanyahu, saying that "we must understand that right now in Israel we have the leadership of Netanyahu who has recently been indicted for corruption, and who in my view is a racist."
The Vermont Senator said U.S. foreign policy should work toward solving the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, and should focus on "bringing people together and negotiating agreements, not running endless wars."
Sanders has consistently expressed similar criticism of Netanyahu over the past years, ever since his first presidential run in 2016.
Another candidate who spoke about Israel was Pete Buttigieg, mayor of South Bend, Indiana, who has recently taken the lead in several polls in Iowa and New Hampshire. Buttigieg spoke mostly about Trump, saying that "His refusal to lead is disturbing," and accused the president of "Interfering in Israeli domestic politics, as though that makes him pro-Israel and pro-Jewish, while welcoming white nationalists into the White House."
Former Vice President Joe Biden, who has led most of the national polls in recent weeks, said that under Trump, the United States is "no longer being an honest broker" between Israel and its neighbors.
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Biden said Trump is making a mistake by not promoting a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, because "it's impossible to have a Jewish state otherwise."
Biden also said that "Bibi Netanyahu and I know each other well, he knows that I think what he’s doing is outrageous." Biden said that two weeks ago Netanyahu has drifted to the "extreme right" in order to survive politically, in the wake of the corruption charges filed against him by Israel's attorney general.
"Netanyahu has gone in a direction that is counterproductive," Biden said. "He wants to stay in power and has gone to the extreme right in his party and in the country. I think it’s a serious mistake."