Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) called Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu a “reactionary racist” while defending his support for Israel at last night’s Democratic debate, The Hill reports.
“I’m 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,” Sanders said at the debate in Charleston, S.C., just days ahead of the state’s Democratic primary.
Sanders’s comments came the same week that he said he wouldn’t be attending the annual American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) conference, accusing the pro-Israel lobbying group of providing a platform to “leaders who express bigotry.”
“The Israeli people have the right to live in peace and security,” Sanders tweeted Sunday. “So do the Palestinian people. I remain concerned about the platform AIPAC provides for leaders who express bigotry and oppose basic Palestinian rights.”
AIPAC shot back that Sanders “has never attended our conference and that is evident from his outrageous comment.”
“By engaging in such an odious attack on this mainstream, bipartisan American political event, Senator Sanders is insulting his very own colleagues and the millions of Americans who stand with Israel,” AIPAC said in its statement.
At the debate, Sanders was asked about his AIPAC comments and what he would tell American Jews who might be worried he is not supportive enough of Israel.
“I happen to believe that what our foreign policy in the Mideast should be about is absolutely protecting the independence and security of Israel. But you cannot ignore the suffering of the Palestinian people,” he said. “We have got to have a policy that reaches out to the Palestinians.”
He added his policy, if elected, would “come in the context of bringing nations together in the Mideast.”
Sanders declined to say whether he would move the U.S. Embassy in Israel back to Tel Aviv but said it is “something that we would take into consideration.”
Read more at The Hill.