Sanders made the remarks during the Democratic debate in Charleston, South Carolina, describing Netanyahu as a “reactionary racist” when asked about his policies toward Israel.
On Twitter, Graham went after Sanders for the remarks.
“Hard to believe that the leading candidate for the Democratic party has called the duly elected [PM of Israel] a racist,” he tweeted.
“Prime Minister [Benjamin Netanyahu] is the longest serving Prime Minister in the history of Israel and has made it his life’s work to protect the one and only Jewish state. Israel is under siege by radical Islamic elements. To fight back is not racist – it is strength and determination.”
Graham didn’t stop there, either, as he said Sanders would be “a horrible Commander in Chief” because “he doesn’t understand the threats we face and sees our military and intelligence community as far to be cut to fund his drive to socialism.”
Bernie Sanders would be a horrible Commander in Chief as he doesn’t understand the threats we face and sees our military and intelligence community as fat to be cut to fund his drive to socialism.— Lindsey Graham (@LindseyGrahamSC) February 27, 2020
During the debate, Sanders — who could become the first Jewish president in American history — made the case that while it was important to protect the independence and security of Israel, it was also important to have a policy that helped Palestinians.
“I happen to believe that what our foreign policy in the Mideast should be about is absolutely protecting the independence and security of Israel. But you cannot ignore the suffering of the Palestinian people,” he said. “We have got to have a policy that reaches out to the Palestinians and the Americans.”
See Sanders’ comments below:
Bernie Sanders says he’s “very proud of being Jewish,” but calls Benjamin Netanyahu a “reactionary racist” pic.twitter.com/AyPV0CweXD— Breaking911 (@Breaking911) February 26, 2020
Netanyahu pulled his punches when asked to respond to Sanders, telling reporters that he is “not intervening in the U.S. election.” Arabs in Israel have long accused Netanyahu of harboring racist views, and in 2015 he was criticized globally when he warned Israelis to get out and vote because Arabs were flocking to the polls “in droves.” Many progressive Jews applauded Sanders for his comments, though they drew criticism from moderate Democrats and Republicans alike.