If he becomes president, Michael Bloomberg said he will never make military aid to Israel conditional, “no matter what government is in power.”
Bloomberg spoke on Monday to members of the powerful pro-Israel lobby AIPAC — the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. He has spoken out against rival Sen. Bernie Sanders for what has been described as an anti-Israel foreign policy.
Sanders declined to attend the annual AIPAC conference. He has been critical of AIPAC, describing it as a platform “for leaders who express bigotry and oppose basic Palestinian rights”, Bloomberg News reported.
A frontrunner in the race, Sanders said he was “very proud” to be Jewish when he was asked about his position on Israel during the debate in Charleston, South Carolina.
Bloomberg stepped up his attacks on Sanders for the AIPAC audience, criticizing Sanders for calling AIPAC a racist platform.
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“He’s dead wrong,” Bloomberg said. “This is a gathering of 20,000 Israel supporters of every religious denomination, ethnicity … and political party. Calling it a racist platform is an attempt to discredit those voices, intimidate people from coming here, and weaken the U.S.-Israel relationship. The reality is AIPAC doesn’t fuel hatred. AIPAC works to combat it – and the violence that it can produce. And if more elected officials spoke to the people here, they’d understand that.
“I’ve always believed that you should meet with peole who disagree with you,” Bloomberg said.
He condemned the practice of U.S. politicians using Israel like a football.
“Israel should never be a football that American politicians kick around in an effort to score points,” Bloomberg said, according to a transcript from Hamodia. “As strong supporters of Israel, we don’t need to agree with everything an Israeli government does – and I certainly don’t. And as proud patriots of America, we do not need to support everything our government does, either – and I definitely don’t. Differences of opinion are healthy – even on big issues.
“But … we can disagree with specific policy positions of presidents from both sides of the aisle without resorting to personal attacks or trying to claim Israel as the exclusive domain of one political party. It’s not. And whenever an elected official suggests otherwise, we should be unequivocal in condemning them.”
On CBS’s Face The Nation, Sanders talked about his confrontation with
“I’m Jewish and I’m very proud of my Jewish heritage…I am not anti-Israel…but what we need in this country is a foreign policy that not only protects Israel but deals with the suffering of the Palestinian people as well,” he said.
On social media, Sanders was accused of being anti-Semitic and of trying to appease Hamas. However, he also got love from a disappointed Pete Buttigieg fan who tweeted, “Well #TeamPete, I’m still very sad. But I’m also excited to now support the only one left who can excite my generation, bring progressive policies to the forefront, and most importantly beat Trump. I’m supporting @BernieSanders!”
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Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich) tweeted support for Sanders: “Habibi #AmoBernie.”
AIPAC pushed back against Sanders for calling Netanyahu a racist, tweeting, “Name-calling by political leaders against the democratically elected government of Israel is counterproductive to maintaining close ties and advancing peace.”
Sanders said Netanyahu is “a right-wing politician who … is treating the Palestinian people extremely unfairly.” Sanders also sided with freshman U.S. Rep Ilhan Omar when she was accused of anti-Semitic comments.