President Donald Trump moved the US Embassy to Israel to Jerusalem last year, a controversial decision that fueled Democrats' skepticism about the Trump government's close connection with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his extreme policy right.
Poll after poll shows that Liberal Democrat primary voters are less sensitive to Israel than they were in previous years. As a result, most of the Democratic presidential campaigns by 2020 have broken the tradition and openly criticized the small nation of the Middle East.
But Pete Buttigieg, a Democratic hopeful for 2020 and mayor of South Bend, Indiana, is not one of those candidates. Although he is not a fan of Netanyahu's leadership, he has shown a constant desire to support Israel.
He reiterated on Sunday in an interview with "Axios on HBO," in which he said he would not reverse the decision made by the Trump embassy and called the country a "powerful ally."
"I think what is done is done," said the former naval intelligence officer. "I do not know that we would gain a lot by moving him [back] in Tel Aviv. "
However, Buttigieg did not say that Trump had done what he needed. "[I]If you are going to give someone something they have long wanted in the context of a push-pull, even with a powerful ally like Israel, you do not do it without getting some sort of concession. Instead, we have seen the Israeli government continue to act prejudicially to peace. And so I think also be detrimental to American interests. "
There are good reasons not to bring back the embassy in Tel Aviv. The Jerusalem embassy is already open and operational, so it would be extremely inconvenient and tedious to send it back to Tel Aviv.
Many right-wing Israelis would also be hesitant about such a reversal. And if Netanyahu stayed in power – a big one if trying to survive both politically and legally – going out of the Jerusalem embassy would probably cause a wedge between his government and the Washington leadership.
However, many Democrats are seriously questioning US-Israeli relations because of the Netanyahu government's attitude towards the Palestinians and the apparent disdain for restarting the stalled peace process.
Buttigieg clearly tried to please both parties with his response: he found a way to lament Netanyahu while showing solidarity with Israel and its alliance with the United States. This comment firmly places the mayor in the more pro-Israel camp among the Democratic presidential candidates – a camp in which he could even be the leader at this stage.
Pete Buttigieg is more pro-Israel than many 2020 Democrats
During his first major speech in foreign policy last week, 37-year-old Buttigieg found a way to fight back against Israel: he said he would hold US taxpayers' money back. it annexed parts of the West Bank. This means that Buttigieg's support for Israel is conditional, although it is clear from earlier statements that the support of the Jewish state is its default position.
In May 2018, Buttigieg traveled to Israel with other mayors, organized by the American Jewish Committee, a world-wide organization for the defense of the rights of Jews. Shortly after her return, Buttigieg was interviewed for the organization's podcast. It was a difficult time, four days earlier, Israeli forces had killed dozens of Palestinians to protest the opening of the US embassy in Jerusalem.
Nevertheless, Buttigieg has only praise for Israel, suggesting that its handling of security threats could be a good model for the United States.
"Seeing how a country can be very intentional, very serious and very effective in terms of security and not letting security concerns dominate your conscience," he said. a very important lesson to which, hopefully, Americans can turn when we think about how to navigate a world that has become unfortunately smaller and more dangerous for us all. "
Buttigieg's foreign policy advisor, however, told me in April that "the Mayor's comments were in no way an endorsement of Netanyahu's policy."
Buttigieg also said that many of the problems facing Gaza were attributable to Hamas, a Palestinian Islamist political organization and militant group that has been running the territory since 2007.
"There is really no unified or unique voice for the Palestinian people," Buttigieg said. "Most people are not aware of the difference between what is happening in Gaza – led by Hamas in a way that contributes to a lot of misery there – but also totally different from an environment in which you would have a trading partner on the other side of the table. . "
There is no doubt that Hamas has not ruled the territory well, so much so that Palestinians living there are protesting against the group. But much of the humanitarian hardship is undoubtedly also caused by the blockade imposed by Israel.
And the more recent remarks he made on the subject of Israel suggest that his views remain largely identical to those of this May interview.
During an appearance on January 31 Viewfor example, he was asked to respond to the comments of representative Ilhan Omar (D-MN) in which she criticized Israel for violating human rights and even compared its conduct to that of Iran. .
Buttigieg, a married gay, strongly opposed. "People like me are stuck in Iran," he said, "so the idea that what happens is equivalent is simply wrong."
He continued, "They have [Israel] We must also understand – and we must understand with them as an ally – what the regional security situation in this country will look like, "he said, adding that an Israeli general during his trip from May 2018 had told his delegation that the most complex problem facing Israel was Iran.
"It's still one of the most complicated questions and simple answers will not serve us well in a moment like this," he said.
Multiple opportunities, multiple defenses of Israel. It's quite clear, then, where Buttigieg is. This puts him in contrast with other contenders for 2020 such as Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT). Sanders has repeatedly condemned Israel for the violence at its border with Gaza, where Israeli forces have killed many unarmed protesters – including women and children – demanding an end to Israel's blockade of food, fuel and food. of drugs that has lasted for ten years.
The question now is whether Buttigieg's rise in polls will suffer because of his repeated support for Israel. If this is the case, foreign policy – and Israel in particular – could play a disproportionate role in the 2020 elections.