Bernie Sanders would consider reversing US embassy's move to Jerusalem

The Democratic primary front-runner also called Israeli prime minister a 'reactionary racist'


US presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders has said that he would consider reversing the move of his country’s embassy in Israel’s move to Jerusalem in 2018, calling Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a “reactionary racist”.

The Vermont senator made the remarks as candidates seeking the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination sparred in the last televised debate in South Carolina ahead of Super Tuesday, when some 15 US states will hold primaries.

Mr Sanders, who is Jewish and is running from the Democratic Party’s progressive wing, was asked by moderator Major Garrett about whether he would consider reversing the embassy’s move and for a response to American Jews who consider him too critical of Israel.

“It’s something we would take into consideration,” Mr Sanders said of a possible move.

“I am very proud of being Jewish. I actually lived in Israel for some months,” referring to a stint that the Senator spent working on a kibbutz in Israel in the 1960s.

“Sadly, tragically, in Israel, through Bibi Netanyahu, you have a reactionary racist who is now running that country.”

The democratic debate featured an unusually long-segment on foreign policy, which had previously been lacking in the previous nine Democratic debates.

Discussion centred on Israel, Syria, coronavirus and historical remarks that Senator Sanders that were favourable of the Cuban education system.

The senator added that any Middle East policy under a Sanders presidency would “absolutely protect the independence and security of Israel, but we cannot ignore the suffering of the Palestinians”.

Mr Sanders, who has established himself as the clear front-runner in the Democratic race, came under concerted attack from rivals on the debate stage.  

Mike Bloomberg, the Jewish former mayor of New York, told Mr Sanders that “he can’t move the embassy back. We should not have done it without getting something from the Israelis in return, but it was done and we need to leave it there.”

Mr Bloomberg, a late-entrant to the Democratic race, is challenging Mr Sanders from the moderate wing of the party. He said he believed a two-state solution leading to the creation of a viable Palestinian state was the only solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren stated that “direct negotiations” between Israelis and Palestinians was the only way to decide the terms of a future peace agreement.

Mr Sanders’ remarks followed a furore over his announcement on Sunday that he would not attend the annual conference of pro-Israel lobby group Aipac next week over his concern that it “provides for leaders who express bigotry and oppose basic Palestinian rights”.

In December 2017, as plans to move the US embassy to Jerusalem were unveiled and Donald Trump recognised Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, Mr Sanders reported that he was “extremely concerned.” 

“There’s a reason why past US administrations had avoided making this move,” he said at the time.

“It would dramatically undermine the prospects for an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement, and severely, perhaps irreparably, damage the United States’ ability to broker that peace.”

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