Beto O’Rourke Netanyahu, Remarks come two days before elections.
Beto O’Rourke, the Democratic White House hopeful, has weighed in on Israel’s election, describing the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, as a racist and obstacle to peace in the Middle East.
“The US-Israel relationship is one of the most important relationships that we have on the planet,” O’Rourke said on a campaign stop at the University of Iowa. “And that relationship, if it is to be successful, must transcend partisanship in the United States, and it must be able to transcend a prime minister who is racist.”
Netanyahu hopes to win a fifth term in office in elections on Tuesday. He intends to form a coalition with the support of ultranationalist factions, including Jewish Power, whose members have called for the expulsion of Arabs.
O’Rourke, a former Texas congressman, condemned Netanyahu for siding with a “far-right racist party in order to maintain his hold on power”. He said the Israeli leader had defied any prospect for peace after making a last-minute election pledge this weekend to annex Jewish settlements in the Palestinian territories.
Netanyahu said over the weekend that he would prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state in the occupied West Bank by “controlling the entire area”.
O’Rourke also cited Netanyahu’s 2015 election-day stunt, in which he warned that Palestinian citizens of Israel were “heading to the polling stations in droves”, a move seen at the time as a rallying cry to rightwing voters.
O’Rourke’s comments reflect an emerging schism within the Democratic party over criticism of Israel’s actions. A cohort of young progressive lawmakers have been openly critical of the Israeli government, in a break from a tradition of blanket support from both sides of the US political divide.
Donald Trump, who has expressed support for Netanyahu during the election campaign, has sought to make Israel a partisan issue. He hopes to appeal to Jewish voters in the US who have traditionally backed Democrats by painting his rivals as unsupportive of Israel.
Talking to the Republican Jewish Coalition on Saturday in Las Vegas, the US president said a Democratic victory in 2020 could “leave Israel out there”.
In the same speech he was accused of using antisemitic tropes of dual loyalty to Israel, referring to Netanyahu as “your prime minister” while speaking to American Jews.
The prominent American Jewish Committee criticised the comment: “Mr President, the prime minister of Israel is the leader of his (or her) country, not ours. Statements to the contrary, from staunch friends or harsh critics, feed bigotry,” it tweeted.