Where do 2020 Democratic candidates stand on Israel?

Pete Buttigieg leads the pack in terms of money received from Jewish-American donors, while Bernie Sanders leads in fundraising overall.

By IDAN ZONSHINE
October 12, 2019 11:19
Pete Buttigieg

US Democratic candidate Mayor Pete Buttigieg. (photo credit: REUTERS)

The Democratic Majority for Israel sent a questionnaire to Democratic Party primary candidates to gauge where they stand on key issues regarding Israel. The results were released on Friday. 

Israel's right to exist and defend itself went unchallenged, with all candidates expressing support for the country, if not necessarily for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu or his relationship to US President Donald Trump.

All candidates mentioned support of a two-state solution, echoing the idea that Israel will be able to reach lasting peace with Palestinians and the greater Arab world when a Palestinian state is created alongside it.

Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren offered their detailed versions of such a solution, with Warren specifically mentioning Jerusalem as a possible joint capital for both Palestinian and Jewish states. Israel currently holds the City of Peace is its capital and acts against any Palestinian claims to it. 

Sanders mentioned a possible Israeli withdrawal to pre-1967 borders, a move that will place Israel in the same situation it was in before the Six Day War. 

All candidates expressed a willingness to continue with US aid given to Israel regarding security funding and legislation. Former vice president Joe Biden spoke of the military aid offered by the administration of former US president Barak Obama when Iron Dome was created. Beto O'Rourke described his record of pro-Israel legislation. He supports the Taylor Force Act, and has visited the country several times.  

Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, was the only candidate who threatened to cut military aid to Israel, saying he would do so if Israel annexes the West Bank. Netanyahu pledged to annex the Jordan Valley days before the September election, if he will gain support for such a move from Trump.  


The announcement doesn't seem to have hurt Buttigieg, as he is currently the candidate who has raised the most money from Jewish-American donors on the campaign trail. 

His position doesn't seem to be too controversial a stance to take for Jewish democrats, as all other candidates have said they oppose the West Bank settlements, or would at least support Israel trading them as part of a two-state solution.

Democratic 2020 U.S. presidential candidate and U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) takes the stage at a campaign rally in Concord, New Hampshire, U.S., March 10, 2019. / BRIAN SNYDER / REUTERS

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders is the only Jewish-American candidate running and the top fundraiser in the campaign so far.

He has been vocally outspoken on several occasions about antisemitism, and equally vocal about his distaste for policies enacted by Netanyahu's government.


"Now, as many of you know, I have a connection to the State of Israel going back many years," he told the group, "in 1963, I lived on a kibbutz near Haifa.

"It was there that I saw and experienced for myself many of the progressive values upon which the State of Israel was founded," he said. "I think it is very important for everyone, but particularly for progressives, to acknowledge the enormous achievement of establishing a democratic homeland for the Jewish people after centuries of displacement and persecution, and particularly after the horror of the Holocaust."

Democratic 2020 U.S. presidential candidate and U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) / REUTERS/KAREN PULFER FOCHT


Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren gave detailed plans for a peace agreement, but ultimately acknowledged that both sides need to agree among themselves on the terms of a peace plan.

"We can start by welcoming the Palestinian General Delegation back to Washington and reopening an American mission to the Palestinians in Jerusalem," she told the group.

"We should immediately resume aid to the Palestinians and financial support to UNRWA, and focus real financial and political resources on fixing the man-made humanitarian catastrophe in the Gaza Strip," she said. 

"Israel is an important ally, with whom we share common security interests and common values. I am committed to Israel’s security and legitimacy, and to cooperating closely on common threats we face from Iran and from terrorist groups such as Hamas, Hezbollah, and ISIS," she added.

But we cannot emphasize our deep bonds to Israel while ignoring the basic humanity of Palestinians. We must also commit to ensure the well-being, rights and freedom of the Palestinian people."

FORMER US vice-president Joe Biden speaks in Iowa in October./ REUTERS


Former vice president Joe Biden was the only candidate to specifically mention anti-Israel bias in the UN.
 
"We’ll continue to stand against the biased resolutions and attempts to delegitimize Israel at the United Nations," he said. 

"We’ll continue to assure that Israel is represented on critical committees just like other nations.  And we will continue to push back against the call here in the United States for people to boycott, disinvest or sanction Israel.  It’s wrong."


Former Texas representative Beto O'Rourke has a very strong history of pro-Israel voting, though recent polling doesn't show him as being one of the current front runners.

As a member of Congress, he voted in favor of foreign aid for Israel.

Beto co-sponsored a resolution in Congress to encourage the Obama administration to quickly finalize a robust and long-term Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Israel.

The resulting agreement was a deal which would last for 10 years and which provided Israel $3.8 billion per year.

In Congress, he supported the Taylor Force Act, which prohibits certain foreign aid from being made available for the West Bank and Gaza unless the State Department certifies that the Palestinian Authority is taking steps to end acts of violence.

He cosponsored both the Hezbollah International Financing Prevention Act and the Iran Ballistic Missiles and International Sanctions Enforcement Act. 
New Jersey Senator Cory Booker stated his history of membership on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and his active funding of Israeli security interests. 

California Senator Kamala Harris sent back a relatively short statement, which didn't seem to mention anything outside of the agreed upon democratic views for the region.

"As President, I would start by reaffirming the U.S. commitment to Israel’s security and prosperity, while simultaneously working to rebuild the broken relationship between the United States and the Palestinians," she said. "Among all of our international partners, the U.S. is uniquely positioned to facilitate negotiations toward peace, but for that to have any chance of success, we have to start by re-engaging in honest, respectful dialog with both sides."



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