Democratic presidential front-runner and former vice president Joe Biden has told members of the IfNotNow Jewish anti-occupation movement that “the occupation is a real problem,” and called for a two-state solution, while also pointing the finger at Palestinian leadership for inciting violence and rejecting Israeli offers for peace.
He was one of three major Democratic presidential candidates who were ambushed by Jewish anti-occupation activists from the IfNotNow organization over the weekend. The other two candidates that IfNotNow fellows caught on camera talking about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict were South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, and former Newark, New Jersey, mayor and current US Senator Corey Booker.
On Friday at a Biden campaign event in Dover, New Hampshire, IfNotNow fellow Elias Newman asked Biden whether he would pressure Israel to end the occupation if he were to be elected.
Biden first responded that “I think the settlements are unnecessary,” and added that “the only answer is a two-state solution, number one; number two, the Palestinians have to step up too and be prepared to stop the hate that [they have] caused, so it’s a two-way street.”
Asked if he believed the Israeli military control of the West Bank amounted to “a human rights crisis,” Biden said that he believes “the occupation is a real problem, a significant problem.”
When Biden was asked if he would “pressure Israel to end the occupation as president,” Biden responded: “The answer, do you know anything about my record?” When Newman responded in the affirmative, Biden said, “Then you know I have, well you know I have….”
.@JoeBiden just said 'The Occupation is a real problem' and we're happy to hear it: this is a baseline position every 2020 candidate needs to take. But when we asked @JoeBiden if he'd pressure Israel to end the Occupation, he deflected to his record. pic.twitter.com/1AIQ7Ubl3g
— IfNotNow???? (@IfNotNowOrg) July 13, 2019
Newman said in a statement that Biden has taken “a step in the right direction by calling Israel’s military occupation a ‘real’ and ‘significant problem’; this is the bare minimum we should expect from Democratic hopefuls.”
He said that Biden, as vice president under Barack Obama, “played a key role in giving the Netanyahu government a free pass to continue settlement expansion, launch assaults on Gaza that killed thousands of Palestinian civilians, and lay the groundwork to annex the West Bank.”
In a response to a different question posed by an IfNotNow activist at another the event in New Hampshire, Biden repeatedly said that as well as calling on Israel to end settlements, “you also gotta pressure the Palestinians,” pointing again to the Palestinian Authority’s support for encouraging violence against Israelis, as well as to previous rejections of “significant offers” from Israel by Palestinian leaders.
Yesterday our member, Sarah Kate, pressed @JoeBiden on the specifics of how he‘ll pressure Israel to end the occupation. She asked 3 times. The more she pressed the more Biden retreated into AIPAC’s anti-Palestinian & false talking points. pic.twitter.com/GdURA3r1FF
— IfNotNow???? (@IfNotNowOrg) July 14, 2019
Buttigieg on Friday in Laconia, New Hampshire, told IfNotNow fellow Erin Sandler, 29, that “The occupation must end.” He added that there is starting to be an “awareness that in the same way that you can be pro-America without that meaning you got to support our president, you can care about Israel’s future and believe in the US relationship and alliance with Israel without being on board with right-wing policies by the Netanyahu government, which is now walking away from peace in a way that I think will harm the Israeli people, the Palestinian people, and in the long run the American people.”
In a tweet posted on Sunday, IfNotNow said one of its fellows on Saturday asked Booker the same occupation question and that he got “visibly frustrated.”
Yesterday, we asked @CoryBooker “Do you believe the Occupation is a human rights crisis for Palestinians?” He got visibly frustrated.
He admits: “If that's your issue I would understand if you want to support somebody else”
— IfNotNow???? (@IfNotNowOrg) July 14, 2019
“If that’s your issue I would understand if you want to support somebody else,” the group said he responded. The series of tweets also noted that he refused to use the term “occupation.”
“Looks like he’s choosing AIPAC over the grassroots,” the tweet also said.
IfNotNow — which does not take a position on whether Israel should exist as a Jewish state — announced last month that it hired six full-time fellows to live in New Hampshire and spend the summer publicly confronting candidates during their events.
The group has raised its profile over the last year by protesting Birthright in a variety of ways, including walking off of its free 10-day trips to Israel.