Buttigieg warned Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that under his presidency the US wouldn’t support Israel’s annexation of the West Bank through the expansion of settlements.
“He should know that a President Buttigieg would take steps to make sure that American taxpayers won’t help foot the bill,” he said.
Buttigieg affirmed his commitment to a strong US-Israel relationship, but argued that Netanyahu’s conservative government deserves criticism. He added that a two-state solution is the only suitable resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
“A supporter of Israel may also oppose the policies of the Israeli right-wing government, especially when we see increasingly disturbing signs that the Netanyahu government is turning away from peace,” he said.
Buttigieg joins just a few 2020 Democratic candidates, including Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Sen. Bernie Sanders, and former Rep. Beto O’Rourke, who’ve been openly critical of Netanyahu and Israel’s stance towards the Palestinian people.
The South Bend, Indiana Mayor used his experience as a Navy veteran who served in Afghanistan to frame his speech, which focused heavy criticism both on President Donald Trump‘s approach to foreign policy and on the Democratic establishment.
“Since the election of the current president, the U.S. hardly has a foreign policy at all, and lest that seem like a partisan jab, I will say that for the better part of my lifetime it has been difficult to establish a consistent foreign policy in the Democratic Party either,” he said.
The 37-year-old said he would also bring an end to “endless wars” and “repeal and replace” the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force, restore the Iran nuclear deal, and rejoin the Paris Climate Accord.
“We should never again send troops into conflict without a clear definition of their mission and an understanding of what comes after,” he said of the AUMF.
Discussions on foreign policy have not featured prominently in the 2020 race so far and most candidates have avoided getting into specifics on Israel-Palestine. This is perhaps explained by the fact that most voters are more concerned with issues like health care, and criticizing Israel can be politically risky.
For years, unwavering support for Israel has been one of the rare topics on which there’s been bipartisan agreement in Washington — but that’s beginning to change.
Netanyahu’s embrace of extreme, far right political parties, his stance on settlements, and his close relationship with President Donald Trump have led some Democrats to speak out against the Israeli government.
Last week, a group of Democratic senators — including Warren and Sanders — introduced a resolution that condemns the “annexation of territory in the West Bank” and Trump’s stance toward Israel.
“The Trump Administration has never missed an opportunity to undermine a potential two-state solution for Israelis and Palestinians,” Warren said in a statement on the resolution. “This resolution calls on us to push towards both self-determination for Palestinians and security for Israel.”
Netanyahu vowed in April to annex Israeli settlements in the West Bank, where roughly 400,000 Israeli settlers and 2.8 million Palestinians live. And since Trump was elected, the Israeli government’s spending on West Bank settlements has skyrocketed, according to official data analyzed by The Associated Press.
Israeli settlements have long been considered illegal by the international community and a major obstacle to a two-state solution.
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