Israel’s Netanyahu pulls his punches after Sanders calls him a racist

Bernie Sanders has been critical of Benjamin Netanyahu’s policy toward Palestinians. (Reuters)
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Updated 26 February 2020

Israel’s Netanyahu pulls his punches after Sanders calls him a racist

  • Bernie Sanders described Benjamin Netanyahu as ‘a reactionary racist who is now running’ Israel
  • Netanyahu said that as PM he had stood up to US presidential opposition to his policies before and would be able to do so again

JERUSALEM: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Wednesday Bernie Sanders was wrong to call him a racist during a debate among contenders for the US Democratic presidential nomination, but shied away from attacking the senator in return.
“I am not intervening in the US election,” Netanyahu replied when asked on Israeli Army Radio about what an interviewer termed Sanders’ personal attack on him at Tuesday’s event in Charleston, South Carolina.
Sanders, who has been critical of the right-wing leader’s policy toward Palestinians, described Netanyahu as “a reactionary racist who is now running” Israel.
Pressed further for his thoughts about Sanders, who if elected would be the first Jewish president in US history, Netanyahu said: “What I think about this matter is that he is definitely wrong. No question about it.”
Asked about possible confrontation with Sanders should the self-described democratic socialist win the White House, Netanyahu said that as prime minister he had stood up to US presidential opposition to his policies before and would be able to do so again.
Netanyahu had a contentious relationship with Barack Obama, Republican Donald Trump’s predecessor as president, with the Iranian nuclear deal and Israel’s settlement policy in the occupied West Bank main areas of friction.
Israel’s longest-serving leader, Netanyahu is fighting for his political survival in a national election on Monday, the country’s third in less than a year after inconclusive ballots in April and September.
During the campaign, Netanyahu has steered clear of commenting directly on the US election.
But he has praised Trump as the best friend Israel has ever had in the White House, noting the president’s decisions to withdraw from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and move the US embassy to the city.
Netanyahu has also tried to play on many Israelis’ suspicions about the loyalty of Israel’s 21 percent Arab minority, political analysts say.
The right-wing Likud party leader says his main challenger, former general Benny Gantz, would need the support of an Arab party to form a governing coalition, effectively tying his hands in pursuing any military action in the region.
The tactic forced Gantz to deny that a government led by his centrist Blue and White party would rely on the Joint List, an Arab coalition mostly supported by descendants of Palestinians who lived in what became Israel after its creation in 1948.
Israel’s Arab community has long accused Netanyahu, in power from 1996-1999 and since 2009, of fear-mongering. On election day in 2015 Netanyahu urged his voters to turn out, warning that Arabs were flocking to the polls “in droves.”
Netanyahu, who held a campaign rally in an Arab town on Wednesday, has said he has no dispute with the Arab public in general, only with Arab politicians pursuing policies he opposes.


Beating lockdown inertia: French city-dwellers keep fit on balconies

Updated 28 March 2020

Beating lockdown inertia: French city-dwellers keep fit on balconies

  • France has been under virtual lockdown since March 17
  • The outbreak has killed about 2,000 people in France and sickened 33,000 others, according to official numbers

NANTES, France: As dusk fell over Nantes in western France, dozens of residents of an apartment block came out onto their balconies for a half-hour fitness session to beat the inertia of life under lockdown while the coronavirus sweeps across the country.
Music pumped out as the group put itself through a routine of star jumps, squats and jogging on the spot. The workout caught on after Pierre Planchenaud began exercising alone. Before long, his neighbors wanted to join in.
“It meant everyone could relax after a day where you stay shut up indoors or in isolation,” said Planchenaud, who works in advertising. “It enables people to have a bit of freedom and take their minds off things.”
France has been under virtual lockdown since March 17 and on Friday Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said the unprecedented peacetime restrictions on public life would remain in place until at least April 15. The outbreak has killed about 2,000 people in France and sickened 33,000 others, according to official numbers.
Public gatherings are banned, schools and universities are closed and all non-essential businesses have shut down, with people allowed out of their homes only to buy groceries, carry out essential work, exercise or seek medical care.
Stress caused by fear of the disease is compounded by isolation, mental health experts say, and the French government has reported a marked increase in domestic violence during the lockdown.
“We started last night and we’re having a great time with the family. It’s cool,” said firefighter resident Guillaume Ricquier.
Planchenaud leads the workout from a central courtyard, with the makeshift class wrapping up just in time to join others nationwide clapping and cheering in support of the health care workers battling to save the lives of coronavirus sufferers.
“It brings a new energy,” said osteopath Laura Martinez. “We said last night it needs to keep going after the lockdown.”