O'Rourke: US-Israel relationship must transcend 'a prime minister who is racist'

Former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D), in an apparent reference to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, said Sunday that the relationship between the U.S. and Israel must transcend “a prime minister who is racist.”

Asked in Iowa City Sunday if his criticism of Netanyahu risked alienating supporters of Israel, O’Rourke drew a distinction between support for Israel and support for Netanyahu.

“The US-Israel relationship is one of the most important relationships that we have on the planet, and that relationship, if it is successful, must transcend partisanship in the United States, and it must be able to transcend a prime minister who is racist, as he warns against Arabs coming to the polls, who wants to defy any prospect for peace as he threatens to annex the West Bank, and who has sided with a far-right racist party in order to maintain his hold on power,” O’Rourke said, referring to Netanyahu seeking to form a coalition with the Otzma Yehudit party.

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Netanyahu, O’Rourke said, does not represent either the best interests of the U.S.-Israel relationship or a path to peace in the region.

“We must be able to transcend his current leadership to make sure that the alliance is strong, that we continue to push for and settle for nothing less than a two-state solution, because that is the best opportunity for peace for the people of Israel and the people of Palestine,” O’Rourke said.

The Trump administration is reportedly delaying the release of its Middle East peace plan until after Israel’s April 9 election, which will spare Netanyahu from having to go on record about the plan as he seeks re-election.

In addition to moving its Israeli embassy to Jerusalem, the U.S. has announced it will recognize Israeli sovereignty over Golan Heights, the disputed territory between Israel and Syria, which the Trump administration has denied was intended to help Netanyahu's re-election chances. Yesterday, Netanyahu announced Israel will annex the West Bank if he is re-elected.