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Beto O'Rourke calls Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu racist

2020 Democratic candidate Beto O'Rourke defended his criticisms of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu while campaigning in Iowa on Sunday, arguing that the U.S.-Israel relationship must "transcend partisanship" and "transcend a prime minister who is racist" in order to preserve the alliance.

Why it matters: O'Rourke's comments come just two days before Israel's high-stakes elections on April. Netanyahu has closely aligned himself with President Trump and has made a series of tactical gambits — like vowing to annex parts of the West Bank if re-elected — to help shore up support among right-wing voters.

  • The comments also come amid a verbal campaign by Trump to paint the Democrats as anti-Israel, following a controversy in which Rep. Ilhan Omar was accused of repeatedly using anti-Semitic tropes.

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