Democratic presidential candidate Beto O'Rourke calls Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu 'racist'

J Street Executive Director Jeremy Ben Ami addressing the group’s conference in Washington

J Street Executive Director Jeremy Ben Ami addressing the group’s conference in Washington

If Netanyahu does survive this week's election, he will become Israel's longest-serving prime minister, surpassing David Ben-Gurion.

In the interview, Netanyahu was asked why he did not annex the settlements, during his first twelve years in office?

He said that internal polls have predicted a win for Netanyahu, and that the premier could be "throwing away a sure win" with his aggressive campaign blitz.

On Friday, the last day polling is allowed, Gantz's centrist Blue and White party was projected to take 30 seats, more than the 26 forecast for Netanyahu's right-wing Likud, according to a poll in Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper. If polling trends hold, Netanyahu would be best placed to do so thanks to smaller right-wing parties allied to him.

He added that "people realize that they have to make us the largest party, we are half a meter away from victory but we still need two more mandates". There have been reports of irregularities and suspiciously unregistered votes by the parties.

Netanyahu pledged Saturday to annex Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank if re-elected, a dramatic policy shift apparently aimed at rallying his nationalist base in the final stretch of the tight race.

2020 Democratic candidate Beto O'Rourke doubled down on his recent criticism of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a campaign event in Iowa City, Iowa Sunday afternoon. "I am going to extend (Israeli) sovereignty and I don't distinguish between settlement blocs and the isolated settlements".

"Who else can do this?"

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Israel says the Palestinians are using the issue of settlements as a pretext to avoid direct peace talks.

"Who can stand in front of the world? It is not a security threat, but a legal one", he told Army Radio. "Israel needs to choose a direction of unification, connection and hope or of extremity".

Israel's president, Reuven Rivlin, consults with the leaders of every party represented in parliament as to their preference for prime minister, and then chooses the legislator who he believes has the best chance of putting together a coalition. Until now the prime minister was the only exception.

In February, the attorney general announced that Netanyahu would be indicted on charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust pending a July hearing in which he will be allowed to defend himself.

Netanyahu has been buoyed by a close alliance with President Trump but faces looming legal troubles amid allegations that he manipulated the press through shady deals and accepted lavish gifts from his billionaire friends.

At their March 25 meeting, Mr Trump signed a proclamation officially granting USA recognition of the Golan as Israeli territory, a dramatic departure from decades of United States policy.

Gantz has sought to overcome that in part by allying with two other former military chiefs of staff and ex-finance minister Yair Lapid.

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