Secretary of State Mike Pompeo refused calls to condemn the Otzma Yehudit party on Sunday, saying that the Trump administration will remain neutral in Israel’s upcoming Knesset election, slated for April 9th, as part of a policy of non-interference in the country’s internal affairs.
Speaking on CNN Sunday, Pompeo said the administration had no interest in getting “involved in the election”, and said the US would refrain from commenting on Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s support for an alliance between the Jewish Home party and the Otzma Yehudit faction.
CNN’s Jake Tapper noted that AIPAC had condemned Otzma Yehudit, accusing the party of racism and noting the ties faction leaders had with the now banned Kach party of Rabbi Meir Kahane.
“The United States' relationship is with Israel. We're not about to get involved in the election, to interfere in an election of a democracy,” said Pompeo.
“Election campaigns are tough. We will allow the Israeli people to sort this out. And I'm confident that, when the election is over, the United States will continue to have a strong, important, very, very deep relationship with Israel that protects the American people and benefits Israel as well.”
When Tapper pressed Pompeo on suggestions Netanyahu had done “something wrong”, by backing the alliance with Otzma, “something that violates the values of” the US-Israel relationship “and the values of the Jewish state,” the Secretary of State replied that the administration would call out any wrongdoing, by friends or enemies.
“This administration has been very vocal when we see human rights violations wherever we find them. Friends, foes, adversaries, allies, and we have been very consistent. We do it in different ways and do it in different times. We will certainly continue to do that.”
On Friday, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) issued a rare condemnation of Israeli leaders, criticizing Netanyahu for backing the alliance between the Jewish Home and Otzma, and excoriating Otzma as a “reprehensible” and “extremist” party.
Founded by former Kach party activists, Baruch Marzel and Michael Ben-Ari, Otzma has been accused of pursuing the goals of the banned Kach party under the guise of a new movement.
The Kach party, which was founded by Rabbi Meir Kahane after he immigrated to Israel in 1971, won a seat in the Knesset in 1984, but was barred from running in 1988.
Kach advocated the transfer of Israel’s Arab population out of the country, and the annexation of Judea, Samaria, and Gaza.
In 1990, Rabbi Kahane was assassinated in New York City by El Sayyid Nosair, an Al Qaeda-linked Muslim terrorist. Four years later, the Kach movement was banned in Israel after Baruch Goldstein, a supporter of the movement, opened fire on a group of Arab Muslims in the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hevron, killing 29.