Rev. Raphael Warnock, a Democratic candidate to the US Senate in Georgia, participated in a webinar hosted by the Jewish Democratic Council of America on Tuesday and defended his record on Israel. Republicans sharply criticized Warnock in recent weeks for a sermon he gave in May 2018, where he said: “We saw the government of Israel shoots down unarmed Palestinian sisters and brothers like birds of prey.”Georgia will hold a double runoff for the Senate on January 5, which will decide which party controls the chamber. “As I recall that sermon, I was speaking to the issue of activists and human rights and the ability of people to be heard,” he said in the webinar that was hosted by former ambassador Dan Shapiro. “At the same time, I have an increasing recognition of Hamas and the danger that they pose to the Israeli people,” he continued.He went on to say that “it’s a complicated situation” and that he will always engage “as a principled and honest broker who both affirms human rights and at the same time is trying to get us to a place where Israel can exist alongside its neighbors in peace.”“I am a staunch ally and supporter of Israel, and I echo without reservation Dr. King’s perspective that Israel’s right to exist as a state in security is incontestable,” he added. “That will be reflected in my work in the Senate. I am a supporter and an advocate for the two-state solution. I see that as the viable way to a democratic Jewish state, and I’m committed to that work. And I think it deserves attention and focus and engagement.”Rev. Warnock also said he opposes the BDS movement. “I will always affirm the right of people to protest nonviolently, but at the same time, I condemn BDS, its refusal to acknowledge Israel’s right to exist, and I support president Obama’s memorandum of understanding.”He called Israel “the most important ally in that part of the world” and said that “our aid and support of Israel is something that I would advance as a member of the Senate.”Matt Brooks, Executive Director for the Republican Jewish Coalition, responded on Twitter: “Where were Jon Ossoff and Rev. Warnock when Rep. Hank Johnson called Jews “termites,” and Rev. Wright made his awful comments. Nowhere to be seen.”“He defended Rev. Jeremiah Wright,” Brooks wrote in another tweet. “That’s all you need to know about Rev. Warnock.”According to JTA, the incumbent Republican Senator Kelly Loeffler went after Warnock during Sunday’s debate for his past comments. “He’s called Israel an apartheid state and said that we should end military assistance,” she said of Warnock. “He’s compared Israelis defending themselves against Palestinians; he has compared them to birds of prey. And he celebrated Jeremiah Wright, an anti-American anti-Semite. That’s divisive.”Jon Ossoff, another Democrat running for Senate, said in the webinar that he has a family living in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv and is committed to Israel’s security.“I’m committed to Israel’s security as a secure homeland for the Jewish people,” he said. What I ultimately want is for everybody living in the region to have those basics that everyone everywhere in the world requires, which is to be able to live in security with the freedom to practice their faiths and participate politically without fear of terrorism, without fear of violence, without fear of persecution.”“I want the United States to play a strong role in ensuring Israel’s security as a homeland for the Jewish people and in leading diplomatic efforts to resolve this grinding 70-year-old conflict,” he continued. “I look forward to working in the US Senate as a Jewish leader to promote strong American diplomacy, to bring about a lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians.”The Jewish Democratic Council of America also announced that Halie Soifer, JDCA’s Executive Director, has been elevated to JDCA’s CEO. “This promotion is in recognition of the growth of the organization under her leadership over the past two and a half years,” JDCA said in a statement.