Democratic US presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg presented himself as the standout candidate on the issue of Israel during a speech at the AIPAC confab.
Addressing 18,000 people at the pro-Israel lobby group yesterday, the former New York mayor attacked his rival Bernie Sanders over his position on Israel and offered unconditional support for the Zionist state.
"If I am elected president, I can promise you I will always have Israel's back," Bloomberg told the crowd in Washington,
because Israel has a right to defend itself, by itself. And that means I will never impose conditions on military aid, no matter what government is in power.
Bloomberg's remark seemed intended to distinguish him from his political rivals. Frontrunner Bernie Sanders signalled his intention to condition America's annual $3.8 billion aid to Israel to changes in the country's policy towards the Palestinians. The Vermont Senator has even suggested that American aid should instead go to Gaza.
Elizabeth Warren is another candidate who has said that she would halt aid to Israel if it did not stop building settlements.
Bloomberg also took a swipe at Sanders over the 78-year-old's harsh denunciation of AIPAC. "Unfortunately, not all of my fellow Democrats in this race have attended an AIPAC conference," Bloomberg said. "One of them, Senator Sanders, has spent 30 years boycotting this event and as you heard by now he called AIPAC a racist platform. Well, let me tell you, he is dead wrong."
Those comments were in response to Sanders' remarks announcing his decision to boycott the confab where he described the pro-Israel organisation as a platform "for leaders who express bigotry". The remark echoed those made by fellow Democrat Betty McCollum. The US Congresswomen denounced AIPAC as a "hate group" that was "weaponizing anti-Semitism".
At AIPAC, Bloomberg is reported in the Times of Israel citing his Jewish heritage as informing his politics. His mother, he said, was president of his temple in Massachusetts, and they kept a kosher house. "My parents taught me that Judaism is much more than our rituals," the billionaire businessman said. "It is also about living our values."
Bloomberg equated the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement with anti-Semitism and said that he would oppose it while also admitting that he had always supported moving the US embassy to Jerusalem, which he described as the "the eternal capital of the Jewish state".
"I will stand up to efforts to hold Israel to a double standard in the United Nations, and even though I believed it should have been done in a peace agreement, I have always supported the US embassy moving to Jerusalem, the eternal capital of the Jewish state," he said.
"As president I will leave it there because that is where it belongs."