Democratic Presidential Hopeful Beto O’Rourke Bashes ‘Racist’ Netanyahu Before Israel Election

Another presidential hopeful, pro-Israel Pete Buttigieg, said ‘supporting Israel does not have to mean agreeing with Netanyahu’s politics,’ after PM vows to annex West Bank

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Democratic presidential candidate Beto O'Rourke speaks during a campaign rally at the University of Iowa on April 07, 2019 in Iowa City, Iowa
Democratic presidential candidate Beto O'Rourke speaks during a campaign rally at the University of Iowa on April 07, 2019 in Iowa City, IowaCredit: Scott Olson/Getty Images/AFP

WASHINGTON — Two Democratic candidates running in the party’s presidential race attacked Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday following his comments about annexing the West Bank after the Israeli election, with one, Beto O’Rourke, calling him a racist.

Netanyahu said over the weekend he is considering such a move, drawing mixed reactions from pundits and experts, some of whom said he should be taken seriously and other saying his words were nothing but an election spin.

>> Netanyahu talks West Bank annexation - but thwarted all efforts in the past | Analysis ■ Annexing the West Bank: Why we must take Netanyahu's pre-election stunt seriously | Opinion

Pete Buttigieg, who is considered a supporter of Israel, wrote in reply to Netanyahu’s statement: “This provocation is harmful to Israeli, Palestinian, and American interests. Supporting Israel does not have to mean agreeing with Netanyahu’s politics. I don’t. This calls for a president willing to counsel our ally against abandoning a two-state solution.”

Buttigieg, who is mayor of South Bend, Indiana, an Afghanistan war veteran and the first openly gay presidential candidate, has been gaining momentum among the crowded field of Democrats seeking their party’s nomination to face off against President Donald Trump next year.

On Sunday, former Congressman Beto O’Rourke said that “the U.S.-Israel relationship is one of the most important relationships that we have on the planet. And that relationship, if it is to be successful, must transcend partisanship in the United States, and it must be able to transcend a prime minister who is racist.”

O’Rourke criticized Netanyahu for the second time in weeks over “warning that Arab voters are going to the polls” — a reference to Netanyahu’s infamous video on election Day in 2015. He added that Netanyahu “wants to defy any prospect for peace as he threatens to annex the West Bank, and has sided with a far-right racist party” in order to advance his own interests.

In a speech last month, O’Rourke expressed similar criticism of Netanyahu, but also said the current Palestinian leadership is unable to make progress toward peace.

In January, Buttigieg was asked on ABC daytime show “The View” about Rep. Ilhan Omar “comparing Israel to Iran.”

“People like me get strung up on Iran, so the idea that what’s going on is equivalent is just wrong,” he replied. “There is a real problem there [Israel] long-term, how they are going to balance being a democracy and a Jewish state, but they’ve also got to figure out — and we’ve got to figure out with them as an ally — what the regional security picture is going to look like there.”

After a May 2018 trip to Israel sponsored by the American Jewish Committee, Buttigieg discussed what lessons the United States could take from Israel.

“Seeing the way that a country can be on the one hand very intentional, very serious, and very effective when it comes to security, and on the other hand not allowing concerns about security to dominate your consciousness,” he said, “I think that’s a very important lesson that hopefully Americans can look to when we think about how to navigate a world that unfortunately has become smaller and more dangerous for all of us.”

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