IOWA CITY, Iowa – Former Texas Congressman and Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke after a campaign rally on Sunday told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his political party is racist.

“The U.S.-Israel relationship is one of the most important relationships that we have on the planet,” O’Rourke said.

“That relationship, if it is to be successful, must transcend partisanship in the United States, and it must be able to transcend a prime minister who is racist, as he warns about Arabs coming to the polls, who wants to defy any prospect for peace as he threatens to annex the West Bank, and who has sided with a far-right, racist party in order to maintain his hold on power,” he added.

“I don’t think that Benjamin Netanyahu represents the true will of the Israeli people or the best interests of the U.S.-Israel relationship or any path to peace with the people of the Palestinian Authority, the Gaza Strip, and the state of Israel,” O’Rourke added.

O’Rourke also pushed for a two-state solution.

“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,” he said.

O’Rourke’s comments to reporters follow a question he received during the rally about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Since his inauguration, Trump made strengthening the U.S. alliance with Israel a priority after it was strained during the Obama administration.

He pulled out of the deal the Obama administration made with Iran to address their attempts to develop nuclear weapons, a deal that was roundly criticized by Netanyahu.

Trump officially recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and moved the U.S. embassy there.

Also, last month, Netanyahu met with President Donald Trump where Trump issued a proclamation declaring that the United States recognizes the Golan Heights as part of the state of Israel.

“The State of Israel took control of the Golan Heights in 1967 to safeguard its security from external threats.  Today, aggressive acts by Iran and terrorist groups, including Hizballah, in southern Syria continue to make the Golan Heights a potential launching ground for attacks on Israel.  Any possible future peace agreement in the region must account for Israel’s need to protect itself from Syria and other regional threats.  Based on these unique circumstances, it is therefore appropriate to recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights,” the proclamation reads in part.

“Mr. President, my dear friend Donald, you’ve shown consistently incredible support for Israel, for our right to self-defense. When we exercise that self-defense, you have never flinched. You have always been there, including today, and I thank you,” Netanyahu said in a joint statement with Trump.

Netanyahu also praised Trump’s decision to list Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards as a terrorist organization.

A poll taken last fall by the Pew Research Center showed that Jewish Israelis have an overwhelming favorable view of the United States at 94 percent and 89 percent among all Israelis. Also, 82 percent of Jewish Israelis have confidence in Trump’s handling of global affairs while 69 percent of all Israelis feel the same.

However, U.S. support of Israel in their conflict with the Palestinians hit a decade low in March with only 59 percent of Americans expressing sympathy with Israel down from 64 percent in 2018 according to a Gallup poll released in March. That poll found a decline among both Republicans and Democrats. Republican sympathy for Israel declined 11 percent over the last year from 87 percent to 76 percent, while Democratic sympathy dropped by six percent from 49 percent to 43 percent. The view among independent voters remained unchanged.

Nearly seven in 10 Americans view Israel favorably. Sixty-nine percent of U.S. adults view Israel very or mostly favorably, down from 74 percent in 2018 but within the 66 to 72 percent range seen between 2010 and 2017.

Another Gallup poll last summer showed 64 percent of Republicans had a positive view of Netanyahu while only 17 percent of Democrats and 30 percent of independents had the same.

The elections for Israeli’s parliament, the Knesset, are on Tuesday. According to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, the final polls of the 2019 elections released on Friday show Netanyahu’s Likud party running either neck and neck or up to five seats behind challenger General Benny Gantz’s Blue and White party.

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