Bloomberg’s Surprising Speech On Anti-Semitism, Israel and Iran

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Speaking at the Aventura Turnberry Jewish Center in Miami on Sunday afternoon, Democratic presidential candidate Mike Bloomberg displayed his famously independent streak to a friendly crowd. “I do know you’re used to seeing New Yorkers here in southern Florida,” he joked in remarks prepared for delivery. “I just hope all of you you voted for the correct mayoral candidate in 2001, 2005 and 2009. And if you didn’tyou will have a chance to atone in 2020.” And with a sly dig at the socialist senator from Vermont, Bernie Sanders, he said, “I’m not the only Jewish candidate running for president. But I am the only one who doesn’t want to turn America into a kibbutz.”

Bloomberg is the only presidential candidate to make his identification as a Jew central to his policy views. “I’ve spent a lot of time in synagogues in my life, but my parents taught me that Judaism is more than going to shul [Yiddish for synagogue],” he explained. “It is about living our values — including our obligation to help and repair the world.” Bloomberg then took an unusual turn, again contrasting himself with Sanders whose ferocious criticism and false accusation of war crimes against Israel drew a strong rebuke from Hillary Clinton in 2016. He recalled taking an EL AL flight “when the FAA banned American carriers from flying to Israel during the Gaza conflict of 2014. It was in my own little way of wanting to show the world that Jews will never let fear of terrorism keep us out of Israel.” If his pro-Israel bona fides were not clear enough, he reminded the crowd of the Magen David Adom Blood Center in Israel “we named after my father, and the Hadassah Hospital wing we named after my mother.” He also stressed, “As president, I will always have Israel’s back. I will never impose conditions on our military aid, including missile defense no matter who is prime minister. …I will never walk away from our commitment to guarantee Israel’s security.” (That’s another dig at Sanders, who threatens to suspend aid due to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s policies.)

Bloomberg then explained his stance on the Iran deal:

I was against the original Iranian deal. I spoke out against it because I think our commitment to Israel’s security must never waver — or “sunset” — and because the deal should have done more to address Iran’s ballistic missile program and financing of terrorism. But my commitment to Israel is also the reason I opposed President Trump’s decision to unilaterally walk away from the deal and our partners in Europe. Because I thought doing so was tantamount to giving Iran permission to relaunch its nuclear program. And after years of compliance, Iran is once again marching towards the development of a nuclear weapon.

Partisans have feigned bewilderment that one could have opposed the Iran deal but acknowledged that it was better than nothing, especially with an erratic, ignorant and dangerous president at the helm. Bloomberg’s view (one I share) may be a political gamble, but it also reflects his independent streak.

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