Pro-Israel Super PAC to stop running negative ads against Bernie Sanders
A pro-Israel Democratic super PAC has said it doesn't plan to run any more negative ads against 2020 presidential hopeful Senator Bernie Sanders after Saturday's Nevada caucus.
Mark Mellman, president of the Democratic Majority for Israel, said the super PAC would focus on congressional races and had "no plans to endorse a candidate in the [presidential] race".
"We don't have plans to be further involved in the presidential race – against Sanders or anyone else for that matter," Mellman said on Wednesday during a panel discussion at New York's Marlene Meyerson JCC.
Super PACs have become a fixture of the US campaign finance system. They are funded by American individuals, corporations and unions, who are legally allowed to donate as much money as they want to supposedly independent organisations that are linked to a particular candidate.
Democratic Majority for Israel spent about $1.4m on TV ads against Sanders in Iowa and Nevada. After the Iowa caucuses, which resulted in Sanders securing 12 delegates and South Bend Indiana's former Mayor Pete Buttigieg picking up 13, the super PAC took credit for denying the Vermont senator a clear win.
Speaking ahead of the Iowa caucuses, Mellman told the The New York Times that the ads were aimed at showing that Sanders was in a "uniquely bad position" to defeat US President Donald Trump in November's election.
Last year, Mellman said he found it "deeply disturbing" that Sanders had surrounded himself with "endorsers who hate Israel" – a reference to Representative Ilhan Omar, who had just endorsed Sanders, and Linda Sarsour, the Palestinian-American activist who is an official surrogate for the Sanders campaign.
Sanders, the Democratic frontrunner for the US presidency, has maintained that Washington should adopt a "pro-Palestinian" foreign policy in addition to its continued support for Israel.
Speaking at a town hall meeting in Nevada on Tuesday, Sanders said: "To be for the Israeli people and to be for peace in the Middle East does not mean that we have to support right-wing, racist governments that currently exist in Israel.
"What American foreign policy has got to be about in the Middle East is bringing the Israelis, bringing the Palestinians together under the banner of justice.
"Take a look at what's going on in Gaza right now. You got youth unemployment, 70 percent, you know people can't even leave the area," he said.
"It cannot just simply be that we're just pro-Israel and we ignore the needs of the Palestinian people."