Castro Open to Quid Pro Quo for Israeli Aid

Says U.S. should reestablish consulate in east Jerusalem

Presidential hopeful Julián Castro said he would consider conditioning aid to Israel in order to press the country into pursuing a two-state solution.

Castro said he would not take the potential withholding of aid "off the table" in an effort to pressure the Israeli government. The former Housing and Urban Development secretary also ripped Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a conversation with former Obama administration officials Ben Rhodes and Tommy Vietor at J Street's national conference.

"We need an administration over there that I hope will be more productive and engage in getting back on a track of a two-state solution," he said. "We need to use this opportunity that we have hopefully with this new Israeli administration, and with a new administration I believe in 2021, to do everything that we can to get Israel to go back in the direction of pursuing a two-state solution so that we can avoid having to condition our aid on that."

Rhodes asked Castro what he would do to "set a new tone with the Palestinian people as well as the Israeli people" if he wins the presidency.

"The Trump administration has made a mistake in putting its finger on the scale so much in line with Netanyahu and his administration," Castro said, adding that he is pleased to see Palestinian rights become a discussion point in the Democratic primary race.

"We need to reestablish a U.S. consulate in east Jerusalem and make clear that under a two-state approach that would be the embassy, under a Palestinian state," Castro said. "In addition to that, we need to ensure that they have the opportunity to restart their mission here in the United States."

Castro's statements echoed that of his rival, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.), who said that "everything is on the table" to pressure Israel to pursue a two-state solution.

"It is the official policy of the United States of America to support a two-state solution, and if Israel is moving in the opposite direction, then everything is on the table," Warren told reporters.