Biden: ‘Outrageous’ to leverage aid to Israel against settlement expansion
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Response to Warren, Sanders, Buttigieg

Biden: ‘Outrageous’ to leverage aid to Israel against settlement expansion

Responding to Democratic presidential nominee hopefuls who say they would cut aid to stop Israel expanding settlements, former VP says move would be a ‘gigantic mistake’

Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden speaks during a town hall meeting, Oct. 31, 2019, in Fort Dodge, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden speaks during a town hall meeting, Oct. 31, 2019, in Fort Dodge, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

Democratic presidential nominee hopeful Joe Biden on Thursday responded to calls from other candidates that aid to Israel be conditioned on an end to settlement expansion, calling the idea “absolutely outrageous.”

When asked by a Wall Street Journal reporter whether he would be open to the idea of leveraging aid to the Jewish state, the former vice president said it would be a “gigantic mistake.”

Biden’s comments came after some candidates for the nomination gave details on aspects of their Israel policy in addresses to the annual conference of J Street, the liberal Jewish Middle East policy group

In a video submitted to the confab, Elizabeth Warren, who has caught up in polling with front-runners for the Democratic presidential nomination, was clear she is willing to lean on Israel, but she declined to specify exactly how she might do that.

Democratic presidential candidate, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) addresses a crowd outside of the Francis Marion Performing Arts Center October 26, 2019 in Florence, South Carolina. (Sean Rayford/Getty Images/AFP)

“We must find ways to make tangible progress on the ground toward a two-state solution,” she said in the video.

“Sometimes that might mean finding ways to apply pressure and create consequences for problematic behavior as previous Democratic and Republican presidents have done,” she said. “For example, if Israel’s government continues with steps to formally annex the West Bank, the United States should make it clear that none of our aid should be used to support annexation.”

Last week in Iowa, Warren was pressed on this question by a reporter.

“Everything is on the table,” she said, but would not elaborate.

Bernie Sanders said Monday that part of the $3.8 billion in annual US military assistance to Israel should instead go toward humanitarian relief in Gaza.

Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders speaks at the J Street National Conference, with the ‘Pod Save the World’ hosts Tommy Vietor, left, and Ben Rhodes, October 28, 2019, in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

The Vermont senator vowed to use American military aid as leverage to get Israel to roll back its settlement enterprise and enter peace negotiations with the Palestinians, an idea that has gained ground among some Democrats.

“I would use the leverage of $3.8 billion,” he told the confab, referring to the US-Israel memorandum of understanding brokered under the Obama administration. “It is a lot of money, and we cannot give it carte blanche to the Israeli government, or for that matter to any government at all. We have a right to demand respect for human rights and democracy.”

The 2020 candidate said he would condition US aid to Israel on Jerusalem taking tangible steps to reach a two-state solution and improve the conditions of Palestinians living in the battered coastal enclave.

Democratic US presidential candidate and South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg speaks at the Iowa Democratic Party’s Hall of Fame Dinner, on June 9, 2019, in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. (Scott Olson/Getty Images/AFP)

South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg said that if Israel followed through on Netanyahu’s pledge to annex the West Bank settlements, that would force him to re-evaluate the levels of aid the United States give to Israel.

“We have a responsibility … to ensure that US taxpayer support for Israel does not get turned into taxpayer support for a move like annexation,” he told a crowd at the Washington Convention Center.

Eric Cortellessa and JTA contributed to this report.

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