WASHINGTON – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday took direct aim at freshman Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar over her suggestion that pro-Israel lobbying groups hold undue sway over American policy because of their campaign contributions.
"Take it from this Benjamin: It’s not about the Benjamins!,” Netanyahu said in remarks via satellite to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, which is holding it's policy conference in Washington this week.
Netanyahu's jab at the newly elected congresswoman, one of only two Muslim women to ever serve in Congress, came in response to a tweet Omar posted in February about the influence of AIPAC. “It’s all about the Benjamins baby,” the Minnesota Democrat wrote, suggesting lawmakers were beholden to the group because of political money.
Omar's comments sparked outrage within her own party and among Republicans, with critics slamming her comment as offensive and relying on anti-Semitic tropes. The House later passed a resolution condemning hate after Omar's remarks.
In a remarkable exchange between a veteran foreign leader and a young American politician, Omar responded on Tuesday by highlighting Netanyahu's political troubles in Israel. "This from a man facing indictments for bribery and other crimes in three separate public corruption affairs. Next!" she tweeted.
🤔 This from a man facing indictments for bribery and other crimes in three separate public corruption affairs.
— Ilhan Omar (@IlhanMN) March 26, 2019
Israel's attorney general announced in February that he intends to indict Netanyahu on bribery, fraud and breach of trust charges. The charges stem from three cases in which he's accused of trading government concessions for favorable media coverage and for allegedly accepting gifts from wealthy business figures. The indictments will only take place after a hearing, a process that could take many months.
For his part, Netanyahu's remarks marked an unusual foray by a world leader into a domestic American political skirmish. The Israeli leader seemed to be taking a cue from President Donald Trump, who has tried to portray Democrats as anti-Semitic and has predicted that American Jews, long a loyal Democratic constituency, will flock to the GOP in the next election because of his pro-Israel policies.
Democrats pushed back sharply on the suggestion that their party was anti-Semitic and suggested Trump was playing a dangerous partisan game.
"I cannot stay silent when the entire Democratic Party is castigated as 'Jew-haters' when what we really need is leadership that unites this nation and the world against the rise of anti-Semitism, hatred and white supremacy across the globe," Sen. Bob Menendez, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told the crowd at AIPAC.
"... History warns us against letting anyone use the Jewish community as a pawn in a political game," Menendez said.
In his remarks Tuesday, Netanyahu said U.S. policymakers support Israel not because of money but because of shared values.
"It’s because America and Israel share a love of freedom and democracy. It’s because we cherish individual rights and the rule of law," he said.
Netanyahu met with Trump at the White House on Monday, where the president signed an official proclamation recognizing Israel's sovereignty over the Golan Heights, a disputed territory the United Nations considers "occupied" by Israel. He was initially scheduled to address the AIPAC gathering in person but cut his trip to Washington short because of rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip on Monday that struck a house in central Israel and wounded seven people.
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Israel's Netanyahu to Rep. Ilhan Omar: 'From this Benjamin: It’s not about the Benjamins!'