Joe Sestak
Joe Sestak Reuters

Former Pennsylvania Democratic Rep. Joe Sestak is running for president, JTA reported on Monday.

Sestak’s announcement referred to his foreign policy experience, and his advocacy for tax reform and addressing climate change.

Sestak was a retired Navy admiral and two-term Democratic Pennsylvania congressman in 2009 when he announced a primary bid against Arlen Specter, the Jewish senator who had just switched parties from Republican to Democrat.

The party establishment, including President Barack Obama, backed Specter, but Sestak won the primary. He went on to narrowly lose the general election to Republican Pat Toomey, who is still one of the state’s two senators.

JTA noted that Sestak was one of the first endorsees of the then newly established leftist group J Street which favors a two-state solution and pressures Israel to bring it about.

Sestak ran again for the Senate in 2016, walking across the entire state to campaign, but lost the primary.

With his announcement, Sestak became the 25th candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Other candidates include former Vice President Joe Biden, former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, Senator Elizabeth Warren, Senator Amy Klobuchar, Senator Kamala Harris, Congressman Eric Swalwell, Senator Cory Booker, South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.

Sestak’s departures from mainstream pro-Israel orthodoxies, rare at the time, have become commonplace among Democrats, noted JTA. J Street has endorsed more than half the party’s caucuses in Congress.

Some of the Democratic candidates have been critical of Israel’s policies. Buttigieg, for example, warned recently that if Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu carries out his plan to annex communities in Judea and Samaria, he would if elected ensure no US taxpayer funds support the move.

Sanders has criticized Netanyahu and his policies, saying, "As someone who believes absolutely and unequivocally in Israel's right to exist... we must say loudly and clearly, that to oppose the reactionary policies of Prime Minister Netanyahu does not make us anti-Israel."

Warren last year called on the Israeli government to respect the rights of Palestinian Arab protesters on the Gaza border. The protests, dubbed the “March of the Return”, have been occurring on a weekly basis since March 30 of 2018 and have been orchestrated and encouraged by Hamas.