'We don't want him': Netanyahu, Israel envoy slam Bernie Sanders at AIPAC

'We don't want him': Netanyahu, Israel envoy slam Bernie Sanders at AIPAC
Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has hit back at the Democratic presidential candidate who called him a 'reactionary racist'.
2 min read
02 March, 2020
Both Netanyahu and his electoral rival Gantz spoke at the AIPAC conference [Getty]
An Israeli envoy on Sunday slammed leading US presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders as a "fool", telling the conference of a pro-Israel lobby that the Democrat is not wanted in Israel.

Sanders earlier took the unprecedented move of boycotting the annual conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), saying it offers a platform for "leaders who express bigotry and oppose basic Palestinian rights".

He has also denounced Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as a "reactionary racist". 

Israel's Ambassador to the United Nations Danny Danon, a member of Netanyahu's Likud Party, wasted no time in denouncing Sanders as AIPAC opened its conference in Washington DC on Sunday.

"We don't want Sanders at AIPAC. We don't want him in Israel," Danon said.

"Anyone who calls our prime minister a 'racist' is either a liar, an ignorant fool, or both," he added.

Sanders, who would be the first Jewish US president, lived on a kibbutz in Israel in the 1960s and calls himself a supporter of the country but has voiced alarm at its rightward turn under Netanyahu.

Netanyahu has vowed to annex much of the occupied West Bank if he secures another term in elections Monday - the third time Israelis are voting in less than a year amid a political deadlock.

Addressing the conference by satellite, Netanyahu made a clear albeit unnamed swipe at Sanders.

"This year AIPAC was accused of providing a platform for bigotry. These libelous charges are outrageous," he said.

Calling Palestinians "the pampered children of the international community", Netanyahu voiced confidence that the US would recognise the annexation - in line with a controversial peace plan presented a month ago by President Donald Trump, a staunch ally of the Israeli premier.

"This will be a truly historic day. The map of Israel will change, the future of Israel will change, and it will change for the better," he said.

Howard Kohr, the head of AIPAC, which stands for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, warned of dire risks for the lobby's agenda in November elections, without naming Sanders.

"A growing and highly vocal and energised part of the electorate fundamentally rejects the value of the US-Israel alliance," Kohr said, saying the alliance's foundation "is in danger of being rocked as it has never been before".

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