2020 Democrats

Democratic primary comes to the American Jewish Committee

Biden, Bernie and Buttigieg, among all “viable” candidates, address the Jewish conference

Credit: Lorie Shaull

Senator Elizabeth Warrens speaks as Art Cullen, editor of The Storm Lake Times listens on stage at the Heartland Forum in Storm Lake, Iowa

All ‘viable’ 2020 presidential candidates, including President Donald Trump, were invited to send greetings by video to attendees of the American Jewish Committee’s (AJC) global conference, in Washington D.C. on Sunday afternoon. Twelve Democratic candidates accepted the AJC’s invite including front runners Joe Biden, Pete Buttigieg, Bernie Sanders, Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren.

Former Vice President Biden, South Bend Mayor Buttigieg and Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) led the forum on Sunday afternoon.

Biden, during his four and a half minute address, spoke of the clashes in Charlottesville, touted the Obama administration’s record on Israel, and also called on the U.S. to “help the Palestinian’s return to the peace table.”

“I’m proud that the Obama-Biden administration demonstrated unprecedented support for Israel, including bolstering the life-saving iron dome system, and signing a new record setting 10 year security deal,” the former vice president said in pre-recorded remarks.

“But friends, we also have to tell each other the truth, and that includes offering criticism on policies that are counterproductive to peace. Because despite the fact that there’s violence… peace is still the most important element to Israel’s security. You know, we have to help the Palestinians return to the peace table, they have to be ready to negotiate, they have to be ready to recognize a two state solution as the only way forward.”

Senator Booker, in his 45-second message, quoted the Jewish scholar Hillel, “We know what Hillel said, ‘If I am not for myself, who will be for me? I am only for myself, than what am I? If not now, then when?’” Booker concluded his remarks with a Hebrew valediction “Yasher Koach,” translated as ‘may your strength be firm’ as he congratulated the organization on its mission.

“Thank you for embodying the best of Jewish ideals through your work, through your commitment to service, for your commitment to tikkun olam, heal this world. We need to continue as I encourage you in your mission, especially at the time we’re seeing a rise in hatred, rising antisemitism. Thank you for your work, thank you for your tradition may you continue in that way. Yasher Koach.”

Mayor of South Bend, Indiana Pete Buttigieg, appeared later on screen, and spoke of his trip to Israel and the West Bank with AJC and expressed support for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“Many of us left that trip with as many questions as answers. But most importantly it’s a chance to come in contact with the urgency of peace, the need for a two-state solution and need to make sure that the US-Israel alliance is pointing in a direction that is going to be beneficial for Israeli, Palestinian and American well being, pointing in the direction of peace,” he said.

“One of the concerns we shared with our Israeli hosts when we were visiting is the extent to which support for Israel has become a partisan issue in the United States. I think that’s a trend we need to work hard to end. We need to make sure that we are steadfast in our support for Israel and for the US-Israel alliance, while also taking into advance a policy direction that’s going to lead to peace and security for Israeli and Palestinian people. I’m committed to doing that as president.”

Video messages from Democratic candidates are expected to play throughout the AJC’s three-day conference. In addition to the aforementioned candidates,  Senator Michael Bennet (D-CO); Representatives Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) and Tim Ryan (D-OH); former Maryland Congressman John Delaney; Washington Governor Jay Inslee; and former Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper.

Prior to playing the videos, an AJC official cautioned the nearly 2,500 conference attendees not to ‘boo’ any of the candidates.

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