US Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders “is a liar, an ignorant fool or both,” Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nations Danny Danon told the annual Washington gathering of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) on Sunday morning.“We don’t want Sanders at AIPAC. We don’t want him in Israel. Anyone who calls our prime minister a ‘racist’ is either a liar, an ignorant fool or both,” Danon said. He spoke in response to a comment Sanders made during a Democratic presidential debate, in which he called Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a racist.To underscore his point, Danon also tweeted the comment.
Later in the day, Sanders responded to Danon in a video interview that was shared on the microblogging site saying that he is very proud of his 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," Sanders wrote.
Sources close to Netanyahu distanced the premier from Danon’s statement, stating that “his words were not coordinated with the prime minister.”Former diplomat Nadav Tamir of the Mitvim Institute called for Danon’s ousting. His words are “a clear and frustrating example for the difference between a diplomat and a politician. Whoever is willing to deepen the rift between Israel and the vast majority of the Democratic Party, to weaken the bi-partisan basis of Israel’s special relationship with the US and to alienate the vast majority of US Jewry in order to gain popularity within his party, should not be allowed to serve as a diplomat,” Tamir said.But AIPAC CEO Howard Kohr alluded to the enmity with Sanders by stating, “Any leader who energizes their political movement by demonizing Israel is not a friend of Israel.”In search of Jewish votes, Democratic candidates have typically addressed AIPAC or sent video messages. In recent years, Democratic candidates have been under pressure not to attend the gathering.Sanders has intentionally shunned AIPAC, stating on Twitter earlier this week, “I remain concerned about the platform AIPAC provides for leaders who express bigotry and oppose basic Palestinian rights. For that reason I will not attend their conference. As president, I will support the rights of both Israelis and Palestinians and do everything possible to bring peace and security to the region.”Democratic candidate Elizabeth Warren similarly opted not to go.Democratic presidential candidate Amy Klobuchar delivered a video message to the AIPAC Policy Conference. Her rivals Joe Biden and Pete Buttigieg are scheduled to do so as well. Michael Bloomberg is the only candidate who will make a personal appearance.Omri Nahmias contributed to this report..@BernieSanders addresses confrontation with @AIPAC: "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." pic.twitter.com/2gf5psaG3k— Face The Nation (@FaceTheNation) March 1, 2020