Bloomberg to AIPAC: I’ll never condition aid to Israel, no matter who’s PM
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Billionaire candidate vows to keep US embassy in Jerusalem

Bloomberg to AIPAC: I’ll never condition aid to Israel, no matter who’s PM

Former New York City mayor calls Sanders’ attack on pro-Israel lobby ‘dead wrong,’ condemns US elected officials using Israel as a ‘football’

WASHINGTON — Democratic US presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg attacked his rival Bernie Sanders on Monday for calling the American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s conference a platform for bigots and for proposing the US condition aid to Israel on the nation’s policies.

Addressing 18,000 pro-Israel advocates at the AIPAC confab, the former New York City mayor drew a sharp contrast between his approach to US-Israel policy and that of the current Democratic frontrunner, who has said he would “absolutely” consider slashing aid to the Jewish state.

“If I am elected president I can promise you I will always have Israel’s back,” Bloomberg told the crowd at the Walter Washington Convention Center in the nation’s capital, “because Israel has a right to defend itself, by itself. And that means I will never impose conditions on military aid, no matter what government is in power.”

“Israel is on the front lines of encountering American enemies in the region and sharing valuable intelligence and experience with us,” he added. “So conditioning foreign aid would not only impair Israel’s ability to keep itself safe, but our ability to keep ourselves safe as well. As president, I give you my word that I will never ever compromise on the safety and security of Israel.”

He also called out Sanders for skipping this year’s AIPAC conference. The self-declared democratic socialist had castigated the forum, saying it provided a platform to “express bigotry and oppose basic Palestinian rights.”

Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders during a campaign rally on February 29, 2020, in Virginia Beach, Virginia. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

“Unfortunately, not all of my fellow Democrats in this race have attended an AIPAC conference,” Bloomberg said. “One of them, Senator Sanders, has spent 30 years boycotting this event and as you heard by now he called AIPAC a racist platform. Well, let me tell you, he is dead wrong.”

Both Bloomberg and Sanders are Jewish, and have staked out dramatically opposed postures on Mideast policy, with the former in the more traditionalist lane and the latter in a more progressive one, calling for a set of policies more sympathetic to the Palestinian cause.

At AIPAC, Bloomberg cited his Jewish heritage as informing his politics. His mother, he said, was president of his temple in Massachusetts, and they kept a kosher house. “My parents taught me that Judaism is much more than our rituals,” the billionaire businessman said. “It is also about living our values.”

Speaking about anti-Semitism and increasing attacks on Jews in the US, Bloomberg linked that phenomenon to anti-Zionism, saying that “when hatred against Jews rises, so too does hatred against the world’s only Jewish state.”

“Anti-Semitism is hardly the exclusive domain of any one group. It can be found on both the right and the left – on town squares and campus quads,” he added. “I will never stand by idly in the face of anti-Semitism, or in the face of hatred against anyone.”

Bloomberg vowed to oppose the boycott, divestment, and sanctions campaign (BDS) against Israel and defend the Jewish state at the United Nations. He also said he would keep the US embassy in Jerusalem, despite his wish that the relocation had happened in the context of a peace accord. Sanders has said he could move the mission back to Tel Aviv.

“I will stand up to efforts to hold Israel to a double standard in the United Nations, and even though I believed it should have been done in a peace agreement, I have always supported the US embassy moving to Jerusalem, the eternal capital of the Jewish state,” he said.

“As president I will leave it there because that is where it belongs.”

The Trump administration broke decades of American foreign policy in 2017 by formally recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and then moving the embassy there from Tel Aviv.

View of the US Consulate in Jerusalem’s Arnona neighborhood, Israel, shortly before it became the American embassy in Israel, February 24, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Bloomberg emphasized that, if elected, he would work for a two-state solution.

“I will also never stop working for a peace plan that has at its foundation two states — one Jewish and one Palestinian — achieved through direct negotiations,” he said, “because Israel must remain a prosperous, secure and stable Jewish democracy and because Palestinians deserve dignity, democracy and opportunity as well.”

Bloomberg also reiterated his opposition to the Iran nuclear deal. He sought to assure the crowd that he would prevent Tehran from obtaining a nuclear weapon if he became commander-in-chief.

“Like many of you, I was against the Iran nuclear deal, because the deal should have done more to address Iran’s ballistic missile program, because we never should have frozen their money without mandating that they end their financing of terrorism, because many of the restrictions came with an expiration date,” he said, referring to the sunset clauses.

Instead, the former New York mayor said he would seek to negotiate a new deal.

“After years of compliance, Iran is once again marching toward the development of nuclear weapons capability,” he said. “As president I will work to make the strongest deal possible to constrain Iran’s aggression and put an end to their nuclear program forever, because the world must never allow Iran to threaten Israel and the whole region with a nuclear attack. ”

Bloomberg also sought to inject humor into his speech, poking fun at his Democratic opponents’ attacks on him for self-funding his campaign, his history of support for stop-and-frisk policies in New York City, and allegations that he fostered a culture of sexual harassment at his private company.

“Israel is small, we know, but resilient and surrounded by adversaries,” he said, “and if you caught the last couple of presidential debates, you know that I can empathize.”

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