JERUSALEM, Israel – Democratic Presidential frontrunner Bernie Sanders (I-VT) says he will consider moving the United States embassy in Jerusalem back to Tel Aviv if he is elected president this year.
Sanders made the comments during a debate in South Carolina Tuesday. The topic came up when Moderator Major Garrett asked Sanders about his recent decision to skip this year’s annual American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) conference.
“What would you say to American Jews who might be concerned you’re not, from their perspective, supportive enough of Israel, and specifically, would you move the US embassy back to Tel Aviv?” Garrett asked.
“The answer is it’s something we would take into consideration,” Sanders said.
“I am 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,” he said, to applause from the audience.
“Our foreign policy in the Mideast should be about absolutely protecting the independence and security of Israel, but you cannot ignore the suffering of the Palestinian people. We have got to have a policy that reaches out to the Palestinians and the Americans. That will come within the context of bringing nations together in the Mideast,” Sanders said.
.@BernieSanders says he’s “very proud of being Jewish,” but calls @IsraeliPM Benjamin Netanyahu a “reactionary racist” and says that while the U.S. must defend Israel's security, “you cannot ignore the suffering of the Palestinian people” #DemDebate https://t.co/nLka6l2vw9 pic.twitter.com/dXb0NG348Y
— CBS News (@CBSNews) February 26, 2020
Democratic challenger and former New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg pushed back at Bernie, saying “You can’t move the embassy back.”
“We should not have done it without getting something from the Israeli government, but it was done and you’re going to have to leave it there,” Bloomberg continued, adding that he is in favor of a two-state solution.
“The Palestinians have to be accommodated. The real problem here is you have two groups of people, both of whom think God gave them the same piece of land, and the answer is to obviously split it up.” Bloomberg said.
“Leave the Israeli borders where they are, try to push them to pull back some of those on the other side of the wall where they built these new communities, which they should not have done,” he said.
Warren, who will also skip this year’s AIPAC conference, said Israelis have the right to defend themselves and Palestinians “have the right to be treated with dignity and to have self-determination.”
She said the Israelis and Palestinians should be encouraged to negotiate between themselves the “terms of a two-state solution.
Warren also refused to say whether or not she would move the American embassy back to Tel Aviv, saying “we should let the parties determine the capitals themselves.”
US President Donald Trump moved the American embassy to Jerusalem in 2018. It was the fulfillment of the Jerusalem Embassy Act, which was adopted in 1995 to urge the federal government to relocate the embassy to Jerusalem and recognize the holy city as Israel’s capital.
Foreign Minister Israel Katz called Sanders' comments "shocking" in an interview on Israel's Army Radio Wednesday.
“The remark by Sanders, who is of Jewish background, is his second against the State of Israel on topics that are at the core of Jewish belief, Jewish history and Israel’s security,” Katz said.
The first remark Katz was referring to was when Sanders said in October that if he wins the presidency, he will consider cutting American aid to Israel to force the nation to cut back on building settlement communities and negotiate peace with Palestinian leaders.
“I would use the leverage of $3.8 billion,” he said. “It is a lot of money, and we cannot give it carte blanche to the Israeli government, or for that matter to any government at all. We have a right to demand respect for human rights and democracy.”