Sen. Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.) called Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his government "racist" Monday, saying the U.S. should treat the Middle East on a "level playing field."
Asked about his criticism of Netanyahu, whose Likud party won 35 seats in this month's election and assured him a fifth term in office, Sanders insisted he was not "anti-Israel."
"But the fact of the matter is that Netanyahu is a right-wing politician, who I think is treating the Palestinian people extremely unfairly," he said. "The United States gives billions of dollars in military aid to Israel—what I believe is not radical. I just believe that the United States should deal with the Middle East on a level playing field basis. The goal must be to try to bring people together, and not just support one country, which is now run by a right-wing, dare I say racist, government."
Calling Netanyahu racist is becoming en vogue for 2020 presidential candidates. Former Rep. Beto O'Rourke (D., Texas) also called Netanyahu racist after he pledged to annex portions of the West Bank. Support for Israel, the Middle East's sole true democracy, has dropped while sympathy for the Palestinians has surged among the base of Democratic voters.
Netanyahu and President Donald Trump have forged a strong alliance, in contrast to the testy relationship Netanyahu had with Trump's predecessor Barack Obama. Trump has made strong support of Israel a cornerstone of his Middle East policy, recognizing its sovereignty over the Golan Heights and moving the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.