US presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders said he would consider moving the US embassy from occupied Jerusalem back to Tel Aviv.
During a Democratic Party primaries debate in South Carolina, Sanders was asked about American Jews who are “worried” he is not supportive enough of Israel, and if he’d move the embassy back to Tel Aviv, he said it would be something he would take into consideration.
He also doubled down on his view that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is a racist.
He said: “The answer is yes, it is something we would take into consideration, but here’s the point. I am very proud of being Jewish, I actually lived in Israel for some months. But I happen to believe, is that right now, sadly, tragically, in Israel through Bibi Netanyahu, you have a reactionary racist who is now running that country.”
If elected, Bernie Sanders would be the first Jewish person to become U.S. president. He would also be the first Democratic nominee to call Israel’s leader, Benjamin Netanyahu, a racist.
— POLITICO (@politico) February 26, 2020
He went on to say that US foreign policy should indeed support the independence and security of Israel, however the suffering of Palestinians could not be ignored.
He continued: “But we absolutely cannot ignore the suffering of the Palestinian people. We have got to have a policy that reaches out to the Palestinians and the Americans, and in answer to the question, that will come within the context of bringing nations together in the Mid-East.”
Opponent former Mayor of New York Mike Bloomberg, who also owns corporation and media empire Bloomberg however, said he would not move the embassy back to Tel Aviv.
He told Sanders: “You can’t move the embassy back. We should not have done it without getting something from the Israelis in return, but it was done and we need to leave it there.”
Israeli Foreign Minister Yisrael Katz condemned Sanders’ comments and said he had a “long history” of attacking Israel adding he was “horrified” by his statement.
Katz said: “Naturally, people who support Israel will not support someone who goes against these things.”
Sanders volunteered on a Kibbutz near Haifa in 1963, and is the only Democratic presidential candidate to actually have lived in Israel.
He has previously called Netanyahu a racist, has pledged to skip the controversial conference of Israel lobby group America Israel Public Affairs Committee, which he has called a platform for bigotry.
Sanders has also suggested part of the substantial military aid package Israel enjoys from the US should be diverted to the Palestinians.
This comes as the Democratic candidates face “Super Tuesday” on 3 March, where 15 different states will head to the polls and vote for who will become the party’s presidential nominee.