(JTA) – Three leading Democratic candidates for the party’s presidential nod said last weekend, ahead of Israel’s elections, that criticizing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu does not make you anti-Israel. Pete Buttigieg, Bernie Sanders and Beto O’Rourke all took shots at Netanyahu, who, as the Ledger went to press, was in a tight contest with Benny Gentz, who leads the Blue and White Party.
O’Rourke, a former Texas congressman, went so far as to call Netanyahu a “racist.” “The U.S. Israel relationship is one of the most important relationships 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.
Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, chided Netanyahu for saying he would annex parts of the West Bank if he is reelected. “This provocation is harmful to Israeli, Palestinian, and American interests,” Buttigieg said Saturday on Twitter. “Supporting Israel does not have to mean agreeing with Netanyahu’s politics,” Buttigieg said. “I don’t. This calls for a president willing to counsel our ally against abandoning a two-state solution.”
On Saturday, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt, who is leading the polls, told Marc Daniels, a Jewish activist who tracks presidential campaigns, “I do not support [Netanyahu’s] policies, and I think that to speak out against Netanyahu is not to be anti-Israel. And what I believe is that we, in fact, need a two-state solution to the Middle East ongoing crisis and that the United States needs to have an even-handed policy.”