Former Texas congressman Beto O'Rourke lambasted Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday, labelling the Israeli prime minister a "racist" who neither represents the "true will of the Israeli people" nor the "best interests" of the relationship between the United States and Israel.
The Democrat was in Iowa over the weekend to drum up support for his run for president when a voter asked him to comment on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, CNN reported. In his response, O'Rourke criticised Netanyahu as a racist leader who had obstructed peace in the region.
"This is somebody who, in a previous election, warned Arabs were coming to the polls. It's racism," O'Rourke said, referring to a warning about "droves of Arabs" that the Israeli leader had issued to his supporters in 2015.
"This is somebody who now no longer subscribes to a two-state solution and has vowed to annex the West Bank which will make peace, in the long term, impossible," O'Rourke continued. "This is someone who has joined far-right parties who are inherently racist in their speech and the way that they want to treat their fellow human beings in that part of the world."
Netanyahu, who has been dogged byallegations of corruption and is up for reelection this week, vowed over the weekend to annex Jewish settlements in the West Bank if voters return him to power. He has also sought to form a coalition with the far-right Otzma Yehudit party, whose views have been slammed as "reprehensible" by the American Jewish Committee and "hateful and extremist" by the Anti-Defamation League.
Speaking to reporters following his rally on Sunday, O'Rourke said the US-Israel relationship needs to "transcend" Netanyahu's leadership.
"The US-Israel relationship is one of the most important relationships that we have on the planet, and that relationship, if it is successful, must transcend partisanship in the United States, and it must be able to transcend a prime minister who is racist," O'Rourke said, referring to Netanyahu.
"We must be able to transcend his current leadership to make sure that that alliance is strong, that we continue to push for and settle for nothing less than a two-state solution because that is the best opportunity for peace for the people of Israel and the people of Palestine," O'Rourke added, per CNN. "It is the best opportunity for the full human rights of everyone who is living in that region."
O'Rourke's comments were in stark contrast to the close alliance that President Donald Trump has forged with Netanyahu. Last month, Trump reversed decades of US policy when he announced his decision to recognise Israeli sovereignty over the disputed territory of the Golan Heights ― a move widely seen as boosting Netanyahu's chances at the polls.
- This article first appeared on HuffPost