(JTA) — Democratic presidential front runner and former vice president Joe Biden told a member of the IfNotNow Jewish anti-occupation movement that the “occupation is a human rights crisis,” and called for a two-state solution.
He was one of three major Democratic presidential candidates who were ambushed by Jewish anti-occupation activists from the IfNotNow organization over the weekend. The other two candidates that IfNotNow fellows based in New Hampshire caught on camera talking about the situation in the West Bank are South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg, and former Newark, New Jersey mayor and current U.S. Senator Corey Booker.
IfNotNow fellow Elias Newman on Friday at a Biden campaign event in Dover, New Hampshire, asked the candidate if he were to be elected if he would pressure Israel to end the occupation.
Biden first responded that “I think the settlements are unnecessary,” and added that “the only answer is a two-state solution number one, number two the Palestinians have to step up too and be prepared to stop the hate that has caused, so its a two-way street.”
When Biden was asked if he would “pressure Israel to end the occupation as president,” Biden responded: “The answer, do you know anything about my record?” When Newman responded in the affirmative, Biden said “then you know I have, well you know I have….”
Newman said in a statement that Biden has taken “a step in the right direction by calling Israel’s military occupation a ‘real’ and ‘significant problem’; this is the bare minimum we should expect from Democratic hopefuls.”
He said that Biden, as vice president under Barack Obama, “played a key role in giving the Netanyahu government a free pass to continue settlement expansion, launch assaults on Gaza that killed thousands of Palestinian civilians, and lay the groundwork to annex the West Bank.”
Buttigieg on Friday in Laconia, New Hampshire, told IfNotNow fellow Erin Sandler, 29, that “The occupation must end.” He added that there is starting to be an “awareness that in the same way that you can be pro-America without that meaning you got to support our President, you can care about Israel’s future and believe in the U.S. relationship and alliance with Israel without being on board with right-wing policies by the Netanyahu government which is now walking away from peace in a way that I think will harm the Israeli people, the Palestinian people, and in the long run the American people.”
In a tweet posted on Sunday, IfNotNow said one of its fellows on Saturday asked Cory Booker the same occupation question and that he got “visibly frustrated.”
“If that’s your issue I would understand if you want to support somebody else,” the group said he responded. The series of tweets also noted that he refused to use the term occupation.
“Looks like he’s choosing @AIPAC over the grassroots,” the tweet also said.
The group — which does not take a position on whether Israel should exist as a Jewish state — announced last month that it hired six full-time fellows to live in New Hampshire and to spend the summer publicly confronting candidates during their events.
The group has raised its profile over the last year by protesting Birthright in a variety of ways, including walking off of its free 10-day trips to Israel.