TEL AVIV – Foreign Minister Israel Katz on Wednesday blasted presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders over his “shocking” declaration during Tuesday’s Democratic debate that he would consider moving the U.S. embassy from Jerusalem back to Tel Aviv if he won the elections.
Moderator Major Garrett asked Sanders, “What would you say to American Jews who might be concerned you’re not, from their perspective, supportive enough of Israel, and specifically, would you move the US embassy back to Tel Aviv?”
Sanders replied, “The answer is it’s something we would take into consideration.”
He went on to call Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a “reactionary racist.”
“I am very proud of being Jewish. I actually lived in Israel for some months, but what I happen to believe is that right now, sadly, tragically, in Israel, through Bibi Netanyahu, you have a reactionary racist who is now running that country,” he said, using Netanyahu’s nickname.
Speaking to Army Radio Wednesday, Katz said the remark was “shocking.”
Israel doesn’t “intervene in the internal process in the United States, which is a strong democracy,” Katz said in remarks translated by The Times of Israel.
“The remark by Sanders, who is of Jewish background, is his second against the State of Israel on topics that are at the core of Jewish belief, Jewish history and Israel’s security,” Katz said.
In October, Sanders said he would consider cutting U.S. aid to Israel and instead give it to the Hamas-run Gaza Strip for humanitarian reasons and as a way of pressuring Israel to stop settlements.
“I would use the leverage of $3.8 billion,” he said at the time. “It is a lot of money, and we cannot give it carte blanche to the Israeli government, or for that matter to any government at all. We have a right to demand respect for human rights and democracy.”
Katz slammed the Vermont senator for knowing little about Gaza and the security threat posed by the terrorist-run enclave.
“The previous time he talked about Gaza… without at all understanding the reality and the threat and the rockets and everything we are facing as those who are being attacked by radical Islam and defending ourselves,” Katz said. “He in effect wanted to deny us the right to self-defense.
“And now, Jerusalem. There is no Jew who hasn’t dreamed of Jerusalem for thousands of years, to return, and we returned and I think President Trump did an important thing, without connection to internal disagreements within the United States,” he continued. “He recognized the reality that Jerusalem is the capital of the Jewish people, the capital of the State of Israel.
“Now, in the new peace plan, the deal of the century, he recognizes Jerusalem in its entirety as Israel’s capital. And we will stick to that and insist on that, and of course act to persuade [people] in the U.S. regarding those things. And whoever comes out against that — naturally, people who very much support Israel will not tend to support him,” Katz said.
On Sunday, Sanders said he would not attend the pro-Israel lobby AIPAC’s annual conference next week over concerns that it “provides for leaders who express bigotry and oppose basic Palestinian rights.”
The Israeli people have the right to live in peace and security. So do the Palestinian people. I remain concerned about the platform AIPAC provides for leaders who express bigotry and oppose basic Palestinian rights. For that reason I will not attend their conference. 1/2
— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) February 23, 2020
Last week Sanders made similar remarks at a CNN town hall event, calling the Israeli government “right-wing and racist” and saying the U.S. cannot just support the Jewish state while ignoring the Palestinians.
“To be for the Israeli people and to be for peace in the Middle East does not mean that we have to support right-wing, racist governments that currently exist in Israel,” was Sanders’ response which was met with applause.
.@BernieSanders on #CNNTownHall: "To be for the Israeli people and to be for peace in the Middle East does not mean that we have to support right wing racist governments that currently exist in Israel… pic.twitter.com/L3tqrt3pcE
— People for Bernie (@People4Bernie) February 19, 2020
In an April 2019 CNN town hall, Sanders said Israel is “now run by a right-wing — dare I say — racist government” that is “oppressive” to the Palestinians.
In December, he again called Netanyahu racist at the fifth Democratic debate.