Israel Ambassador to the UN, Danny Danon, has told Democratic presidential frontrunner Bernie Sanders he is not welcome in Israel as the fallout to the under-fire senator’s “horrifying” comments about potentially moving the US Embassy from Jerusalem back to Tel Aviv during a South Carolina presidential debate last week continues.
US Vice President Mike Pence joined the furore, describing Sanders as “the most anti-Israel president” in American history if elected during a keynote address to 18,000 delegates at the annual American-Israel Public Affairs Committee conference in Washington on Monday.
Ignoring the pro-Israel lobby’s request not to attack another party, Pence went on the offence to wild applause.
“The most pro-Israel president in history must not be replaced by one who would be the most anti-Israel president in the history of this nation,” said Pence. “That’s why we need four more years of President Trump in the White House.”
Taking aim at Sanders, Pence added, “One of the leading candidates openly and repeatedly attacks Israel as a racist state.”
Sanders defended his actions in South Carolina in an interview on CBS’ ‘Face the Nation’ program on Sunday, stating he was pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian.
“I want to bring people together to finally achieve peace in that region,” he said.
Sanders insisted he would do everything to protect the independence, security and freedom of Israeli people. The controversial politician also called for a foreign policy that deals with the suffering of the Palestinian people.
Danon, earlier in the day however slated the senator from the AIPAC conference.
“We don’t want Sanders at AIPAC. We don’t want him in Israel,” he said.
The US emissary also criticised Sanders for calling Netanyahu a “reactionary racist” at the Democratic debate. “Whoever calls the Prime Minister of Israel a ‘racist’ is either a liar, an ignorant fool, or both,” Danon said.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Blue & White leader Benny Gantz sent video messages to the conference with the Israeli election taking place.
Sanders’ rivals, Joe Biden also sent a video message.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Ambassador to Israel David Friedman and Democratic candidate Michael Bloomberg addressed the conference.
The war of words followed Foreign Minister Israel Katz slating Sanders over his comments regarding the US Embassy.
Sanders accused AIPAC of providing a platform to leaders who “express bigotry” against Palestinian people on social media. Explaining his decision, Sanders noted, “I remain concerned about the platform AIPAC provides for leaders who express bigotry and oppose basic Palestinian rights. For that reason, I will not attend their conference.”
AIPAC slammed Sanders’ viewpoint as “shameful”.
The US Embassy opened in Jerusalem in May 2018, coinciding with the 70th anniversary of Israel’s founding. Trump described the moment as “a long-overdue step” to advance the peace process.
Netanyahu said the occasion was historic and a “great day” for Israel, America and peace.