Ariel Zilber, Daily Mail, April 7, 2019
Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke says that Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, is racist.
The former Texas congressman made the remark during a campaign stop on Sunday in Iowa.
O’Rourke was asked on Sunday if his past criticisms of Netanyahu risked driving away Israel supporters from the Democratic Party.
‘The US-Israel relationship is one of the most important relationships that we have on the planet, and that relationship, if it is successful, must transcend partisanship in the United States, and it must be able to transcend a prime minister who is racist, as he warns against Arabs coming to the polls, who wants to defy any prospect for peace as he threatens to annex the West Bank, and who has sided with a far-right racist party in order to maintain his hold on power,’ O’Rourke told The Hill.
The former House representative said that Netanyahu doesn’t represent the best interests of the U.S.-Israel relationship or of the future of the peace process in the Middle East.
‘We must be able to transcend his current leadership to make sure that the alliance is strong, that we continue to push for and settle for nothing less than a two-state solution, because that is the best opportunity for peace for the people of Israel and the people of Palestine,’ O’Rourke said.
Netanyahu is just days away from a national election in Israel. Polls indicate that he has the best chance to form a ruling coalition.
Israeli voters go to the polling stations this coming Tuesday.
If, as expected, Netanyahu is picked to form the next government, he would be the longest serving prime minister in the country’s history.
Netanyahu has faced fierce criticism both in Israel and among Jewish communities worldwide for his open alliance this election campaign with far-right elements who espouse the beliefs of the late Meir Kahane.
Kahane was the founder of the Kach movement, which has been designated by the State Department as a terrorist organization.
The Kach movement believes that Israel is an exclusively Jewish country and that Arabs should be deported.
Faced with a new merger of centrist parties that opinion polls show might defeat him, Netanyahu engineered the deal between Jewish Power and another ultranationalist faction, Jewish Home.
Polls suggest that without the alliance one or both of the far right parties might fail to reach the 3.25 percent threshold needed to win any seats in the 120-member parliament.
With the merger they could win as many as five.
Netanyahu has defended the merger as a way to improve his chances of forming a right-wing governing coalition led by his Likud Party, to serve for a fifth term after the April 9 vote.
Such a bloc, he said, would best protect Israel’s security.
But criticism leveled by AIPAC and another major U.S. Jewish group, the American Jewish Committee (AJC), against Jewish Power dominated coverage in Israel when it was announced on February.
‘AIPAC has a longstanding policy not to meet with members of this racist and reprehensible party,’ the lobbying group said, echoing comments tweeted by the AJC.
AIPAC has generally provided unflinching backing for Netanyahu’s policies during his 13 years in power, even as some U.S. Jewish organizations have expressed reservations over Israel’s lurch to the right.
Netanyahu’s leading opponent, former armed forces chief Benny Gantz, a leader of the new centrist Blue and White alliance, said the prime minister had crossed an ethical line and was damaging ‘our important relationship with U.S. Jews.’
Netanyahu also caused alarm in America when he made a campaign promise this week to annex parts of the occupied West Bank if he were to win the election.
In March, President Trump broke with decades of international consensus by recognizing Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, territory Israel captured from Syria.
That followed his December 2017 recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, and the U.S. embassy’s move to the holy city last May.
Asked in an interview on Friday on Israel’s Channel 13 why he wasn’t pressing Trump now to approve a West Bank settlement status change, Netanyahu replied: ‘Wait until the next term.’