Israeli Minister Denounces Sanders for Calling Netanyahu Government ‘Racist’

April 24, 2019
Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) walks before a series of votes on legislation ending U.S. military support for the war in Yemen on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., December 13, 2018. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

Israeli Minister Tzachi Hanegbi, who is a member of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s cabinet, condemned Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) for calling the Israeli government “racist.”

In a CNN town hall on April 22, Sanders, who announced that he was running for president in February, said that while he is not “anti-Israel,” he thinks Netanyahu “is treating the Palestinian people extremely unfairly.”

“I just believe that the United States should deal with the Middle East on a level playing field basis,” Sanders said. “In other words, the goal must be to try to bring people together and not just support one country, which is now run by a right-wing, you know, dare I say, racist government.”

He added, “Israel has every right in the world to exist and to exist in peace and security and not be subjected the terrorist attacks. But the United States needs to deal not just with Israel, but with the Palestinian people, as well.” 

Hanegbi told Israeli television station Reshet 13 that Sanders’ remarks were “really strange.”

“The Israeli government is not a racist government, nor does it include a single racist minister,” Hanegbi said. “To be right wing is not illegitimate, and it is odd that the Democratic Party allows one of its senior members to not respect the democratic choice of the State of Israel.”

AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee) indirectly rebuked Sanders by tweeting, “The U.S.-Israel alliance serves America’s interests. We benefit from the close bonds between the governments and peoples. Name-calling by political leaders against the democratically elected government of Israel is counterproductive to maintaining close ties and advancing peace.”

Sanders also criticized Israel’s handling of the border riots at the Gaza Strip in May and was one of the 23 senators who voted against anti-boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) legislation in February, although Sanders expressed opposition to the BDS movement in January.

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