Bernie Sanders Responds After Israeli Ambassador to U.N. Says 'We Don't Want Him in Israel'

Israel's ambassador to the United Nations, Danny Danon, declared "we don't want" Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, a Jew who previously lived in the country, to be allowed re-entry into Israel.

Danon--a free-market conservative and ally of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu--told attendees of a conference hosted by the powerful pro-Israel American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) Sunday that the Democratic Party front-runner for president is an "ignorant fool." Sanders declined to attend the AIPAC event and labeled it a platform for "bigotry." During the last Democratic debate, Sanders described Netanyahu, another Trump ally, saying: "Sadly, tragically, in Israel, you have a reactionary racist who is now running that country."

"Whoever calls the prime minister of Israel a 'racist' is either a liar, an ignorant fool, or both," Danon said at the Sunday AIPAC event, according to the Times of Israel. "We don't want Sanders at AIPAC. We don't want him in Israel."

Netanyahu himself told the Times of Israel last week that while Sanders was "wrong" about him, he declined to get involved in the U.S. presidential election process. The Israeli prime minister has referred to Trump as Israel's "greatest friend" that they've had in the White House. Congressional Research Service data shows the U.S. gives Israel $3.8 billion annually, primarily funding the Israeli military.

Sanders spent several months in his early 20s living on an Israeli kibbutz, or collective living community, Haaretz first reported during the 2016 election. During last week's Democratic debate, Sanders said he may consider moving the U.S. embassy back from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv -- a reversal of Trump's May 2018 move to appease conservatives in both the U.S. and Israel.

Sanders responded to Danon during a Sunday appearance on CBS Face the Nation. Host Margaret Brennan asked Sanders: "Israel's Ambassador to the U.N. says of you, that you're not welcome in that country, and 'anyone who calls our Prime Minister a racist is either a liar or an ignorant fool or both.' Do you see a political cost of taking on the pro-Israel lobby in this way?"

"Yes I do," Sanders replied. "They have a lot of money and they have a lot of power. Look, I'm Jewish and I'm very proud of my Jewish heritage...I am not anti-Israel...but what we need in this country is a foreign policy that not only protects Israel but deals with the suffering of the Palestinian people as well."

Other Democratic Party candidates have agreed to address AIPAC, including former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who is also Jewish, along with former Vice President Joe Biden and Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar. Biden and Klobuchar will speak via video.

Sanders, who if elected would become America's first Jewish president, has been one of Washington's most outspoken advocates for Palestinians from either party. During last week's South Carolina debate, Sanders said he is committed to "protecting the independence and security of Israel ... [but] you cannot ignore the suffering of the Palestinian people."

Neither AIPAC nor the Sanders campaign agreed to give additional comments to Newsweek regarding Danon's remarks Sunday.

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Israel's ambassador to the United Nations, Danny Danon, declared "we don't want" Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, a Jew who previously lived in the country, to be allowed re-entry. EuropaNewswire/Gado/Contributor/Getty Images
Bernie Sanders Responds After Israeli Ambassador to U.N. Says 'We Don't Want Him in Israel' | World