Delaney slams 2020 rival Sanders for calling Israeli government 'racist'

Delaney slams 2020 rival Sanders for calling Israeli government 'racist'
© Greg Nash

Former Rep. John DelaneyJohn Kevin DelaneyJulián Castro is behind in the polls, but he's finding a niche Democratic strategist predicts most 2020 candidates will drop out in late fall The Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump hits media over 'send her back' coverage MORE (D-Md.), who is currently running a longshot White House bid, slammed fellow candidate Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersGabbard arrives in Puerto Rico to 'show support' amid street protests Democratic strategist predicts most 2020 candidates will drop out in late fall Sanders unveils plan to guarantee the 'right to a secure retirement' MORE (I-Vt.) over comments he made Monday calling Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government “racist.” 

“It is not productive to resort to name-calling when referring to the democratically-elected government of our closest ally in the Middle East," Delaney said in a statement. "Our next president should be focused on strengthening our alliances around the world, not weakening them. Our alliance with Israel is 100 percent in our national interest and has always enjoyed, and must continue to enjoy, bipartisan support."

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Delaney added that if elected, he will "proudly" work to strengthen the U.S.-Israel relationship.

Sanders, currently a front-runner in the crowded Democratic primary, made the comments during a CNN town hall earlier this week, calling Netanyahu's coalition a "right-wing, dare I say racist, government."

"I am not anti-Israel," Sanders continued. "But the fact of the matter is Netanyahu is a right-wing politician who I think is treating the Palestinian people extremely unfairly."

Netanyahu, who was reelected this month to a record-breaking fifth term, raised eyebrows when he announced a coalition with a far-right party that has denigrated Palestinians and is the successor to a group that advocated for the “transfer” of Arabs from Israel to the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Netanyahu himself has also sparked criticism over repeated efforts to boost voter turnout for his own party by saying that Arab citizens are voting.

Delaney's criticism of Sanders marks one of the first individual attacks among Democratic presidential contenders so far in the 2020 cycle. The former Maryland lawmaker has, thus far, barely registered in national or statewide polls, while Sanders is out-fundraising and out-polling all of his declared opponents.