US presidential candidates double down on Israel

Sole Jewish candidate skips annual pro-Israeli conference; uses campaign stop to challenge Tel Aviv’s policies

US presidential candidates double down on Israel

World Bulletin / News Desk

Regardless of party, presidential candidates seeking their party’s nomination sought to out-show their competitors Monday on one area: their unwavering pro-Israel bona fides.

The largest pro-Israel gathering in the U.S. attracted all standing major presidential contenders hoping to outdo one another in front of an estimated 18,000 attendees – except one.

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who is Jewish, did not attend the policy conference citing his busy campaign schedule.

But his Democratic rival, front-runner Hillary Clinton had no shortage of praise for Tel Aviv, telling throngs of Israel supporters, “Israel's security is non-negotiable”.

“America can't ever be neutral when it comes to Israel's security or survival,” she said at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s annual gathering.

“Some things aren't negotiable,” she said to raucous applause. “And anyone who doesn't understand that has no business being our president.”

Speaking hours after Clinton departed the stage, Republicans sought to outdo themselves and the former top diplomat in their bids to assure the auidence that they have what it takes to ensure Israel’s security.

“My number-one priority is to dismantle the disastrous deal with Iran,” billionaire Donald Trump told attendees, referring to the internationally brokered agreement on Iran’s nuclear program that has elicited fiery condemnation from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Regarding Iran’s recent launches of ballistic missiles he said that the tests do “not even violate the horrible deal that we've made”, but do run afoul of UN Security Council resolutions.

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz went one step further, saying that “Palestine has not existed since 1948” – an apparent reference to the date of Israel’s creation, which Palestinians call the nakba, or “catastrophe”.

“Israel is not the barrier to peace it is the Palestinian Authority,” he said. Among the chorus of pro-Israel statements, one candidate diverged.

During a campaign stop in Salt Lake City, Utah, Sanders reportedly called for an end to Israel’s “disproportionate responses” to Palestinian attacks, adding that attacks on Israelis are "unacceptable".

He slammed Israel for its seizure of 579 acres in the West Bank and said it is “absurd” for members of Netanyahu’s Cabinet to suggest that stepped up settlement construction is an appropriate response to a recent uptick in attacks.

“When we talk about Israel and Palestinian areas, it is important to understand that today there is a whole lot of suffering among Palestinians and that cannot be ignored,” he said.

The candidates will next compete Tuesday in Utah, Arizona and Idaho.

Güncelleme Tarihi: 22 Mart 2016, 09:09