As this week’s Israeli national elections heat up, 2020 presidential candidates are starting to take sides. The latest Democratic hopeful to speak publicly about the quagmire of Israeli politics is Beto O’Rourke, according to The Hill. Israel’s elections will decide the fate of embattled Prime Minister and Trump bestie Benjamin Netanyahu, who continues to escalate his extremist right-wing positions in a bid to get his base out.
At an event in Iowa City, O’Rourke was asked whether criticizing Netanyahu could endanger his campaign’s relationship with supporters of Israel. O’Rourke’s response was generally in line with mainstream U.S. foreign policy positions on Israel. But the Texan did have some harsh words for Bibi.
“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,” O’Rourke said.
Netanyahu, O’Rourke said, is a leader who “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.”
This is all accurate. In the lead up to Israel’s 2015 election, Netanyahu did warn that Arabs were coming out to vote, as a way to instill fear in, and garner votes from, his anti-Arab base. In February, Netanyahu announced that his party, Likud, would merge with the far-right, anti-Arab Otzma Yehudit party, raising the possibility that one of their extremist members will make it into the Knesset. And just this weekend, Netanyahu suggested that if he retains power in this week’s elections, he will begin annexing the West Bank.
But that’s far from Bibi’s only despicable, prejudiced actions as Prime Minister. Under his leadership, Israel has expanded Jewish settlements in Palestinian territory, killed scores of Palestinian protestors, and passed legislation that designates Arabs as second-class citizens.
In his response, O’Rourke said that Netanyahu is bad for both the U.S.-Israel relationship, and the possibility of peace in the region.
“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.
O’Rourke isn’t the only 2020 contender to come out with a statement about recent developments in the Holy Land. South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg also tweeted yesterday about the news of Netanyahu’s plans for the West Bank.
Unsurprisingly, the Trump administration, who have aligned themselves closely with the current Israeli government, continue to legitimize Netanyahu’s positions. In 2017, Trump officially recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and moved the U.S. embassy there, a move that was seen as an affront to Palestinians. And just a few weeks ago, the administration announced they would recognize Israeli sovereignty over Golan Heights. Given its timing, its hard to interpret that decision as anything other than a giveaway to Netanyahu for the upcoming elections.
Yesterday, Trump told the Republican Jewish Coalition that he made the decision to recognize the long-disputed Golan Heights as part of Israel after a quick history lesson with advisors that included his son-in-law Jared Kushner.
“I said, ‘Fellows, do me a favor. Give me a little history, quick. Want to go fast. I got a lot of things I’m working on: China, North Korea. Give me a quickie,” Trump said, according to Reuters.
He continued, “How do you like the idea of me recognizing exactly what we’re discussing? I went–Bing!–it was done. We make fast decisions. And we make good decisions.”
Speaking of boy wonder Kushner, it was reported last week that his plan to somehow create peace in the Middle East is nearly complete. But it hasn’t been released yet—in another favor to their good bro Bibi, the Trump administration won’t release the plan until after the April 9th elections, so Netanyahu isn’t forced to go on the record supporting it.
What a beautiful friendship! You love to see it.