Netanyahu blasts Sanders at AIPAC, calls ‘bigotry’ charge ‘libelous’

Netanyahu took Sanders to task over his attacks against the largest pro-Israel lobbying group in the U.S.

By David Isaac, World Israel News

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spared no punches against Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders during his speech made by satellite video link to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) on Sunday in Washington, D.C.

Netanyahu didn’t address Sanders’ recent personal attack against himself, but focused instead on the Democratic front-runner’s accusations against the pro-Israel lobbying group, calling Sanders’ charge of bigotry against the organization “libelous” and “outrageous.”

“This year AIPAC was accused of providing a platform for bigotry. These libelous charges are outrageous,” Netanyahu said.

Sanders tweeted on Feb. 24 that he wouldn’t attend the pro-Israel’s group’s annual conference, normally a non-controversial event before which presidential candidates are eager to appear.

Sanders tweeted he was “concerned about the platform AIPAC provides for leaders who express bigotry and oppose basic Palestinian rights.”

AIPAC shot back quickly, noting “Senator Sanders has never attended our conference and that is evident from his outrageous comment.”

“By engaging in such an odious attack on this mainstream, bipartisan American political event, Senator Sanders is insulting his very own colleagues and the millions of Americans who stand with Israel,” the group said.

Netanyahu told the 18,000 gathered that the best way to respond to Sanders’ attack “is to do what you have done — by gathering in Washington today, in full force, as Democrats and Republicans … You send a great message to all those who seek to weaken our alliance, that they will fail.”

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Sanders also attacked Netanyahu at a recent Democratic presidential debate, accusing him of being a racist.

“I’m very proud of being Jewish. I actually lived in Israel for some months. But what I happen to believe is that right now, sadly, tragically, in Israel, through Bibi Netanyahu, you have a reactionary racist who is now running that country,” Sanders charged.

Israeli Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon rose to defend Netanyahu at the AIPAC conference on Sunday.

“We don’t want Sanders at AIPAC. We don’t want him in Israel. Anyone who calls our prime minister a ‘racist’ is either a liar, an ignorant fool, or both,” Danon said.

Sanders’ criticism of Israel has underscored concerns within Israel and the U.S. Jewish community about an anti-Israel current within the Democratic party that has has put into question whether bipartisan support for Israel will continue.