February 27, 2020

Buttigieg Tells IfNotNow Activist He Won’t ‘Withdraw Aid to Israel’ Over Annexation

INDEPENDENCE, IOWA - JANUARY 30: Democratic presidential candidate former South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg speaks at a town hall campaign event January 30, 2020 in Independence, Iowa. Iowa holds the state's caucuses in four days on February 3. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Ind., and 2020 Democratic presidential candidate, told an IfNotNow activist on Jan. 29 that he wouldn’t cease funds to Israel over annexation of the West Bank.

During a town hall in Iowa, the activist, who identified himself as Elias Newman, told Buttigieg he’s vehemently opposed to President Donald Trump’s Mideast plan to settle the Israel-Palestinian conflict. Newman recounted an instance when he saw an Israeli government crew demolishing a Palestinian home in Susya, an Israeli settlement in the West Bank, in front of a 10-year-old Palestinian child.

“We know that annexation — if it happens — it’s gonna make things way worse, both for Palestinians and the young Israeli soldiers, who are there upholding Jim Crow-like laws,” Newman said, “and recently, I was happy to see that you said if annexation happens, that you’ll make sure that [the] U.S. doesn’t foot the bill. So I wanted to know: Now that annexation is happening in full force, are you ready to commit, to make sure the U.S. doesn’t send a blank check to Israel?”

Buttigieg stated his opposition to annexation and commitment to ensure that Israel doesn’t undertake such action, but said he would not end support for Israel.

“In my administration, the Israeli government will get the message that we are not going to support those kinds of steps,” Buttigieg said. “In my view, they’re bad for Israel. They’re bad for Palestinians. They’re bad for America.”

Newman interjected, asking if Buttigieg would commit “to withdrawing aid for the occupation.”

“If you’re asking me whether in light of the president’s proposal, I would withdraw aid to Israel, the answer is no,” Buttigieg replied.

Newman then asked the candidate, who was campaigning in the run-up to the Feb. 3 Iowa caucuses, why he went “back on his plan.” Buttigieg responded that he has been consistent on the matter.

“Why do you make progressive policy and then not having [to] act on it?” Newman asked.

“If you’d like to get into a debate with me, I’m not sure this is the best format for that,” Buttigieg replied.

Jewish Insider’s Jacob Kornbluh noted that Buttigieg said during J Street’s national conference in October that the U.S. cannot allow aid to Israel to “turn into U.S. taxpayer support for a move like annexation.”

Senior White House adviser Jared Kushner, who is also Trump’s son-in-law and one of the architects of the Middle East plan, told the foreign affairs website GZERO Media on Jan. 30 that the administration doesn’t want to see annexation occur until after Israel’s March 2 elections.

“I think we’d need an Israeli government in place in order to move forward,” Kushner said. “But we’ll see what happens.”