DES MOINES, Iowa—Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Ind., and a candidate for the Democratic nomination for president in 2020, denounced on Tuesday U.S. President Donald Trump’s official recognition of Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights as an “intervention” in the State of Israel and its politics.

“There are very legitimate Israeli security concerns,” said the 37-year-old in response to a question from JNS following his speech at the annual Iowa State Fair on “The Des Moines Register Political Soapbox,” where candidates for president and other offices give an allotted 20-minute speech. “That being said, I would have, in that situation, had this be part of a negotiated discussion. The really upsetting thing about what was done with the Golan Heights was that it was an intervention in Israeli domestic politics.”

“In other words, the president used U.S. foreign policy to put a thumb on the scale for right-wing allies within Israeli domestic politics. This is totally the wrong basis for our policy. So we can talk about the future of any of the hot-button issues in the Middle East,” continued Buttigieg. “The bottom line is when I am president we will do it not based on U.S. politics [and] not based on Israeli politics but based on what is best for the security of the Israeli, Palestinian and American people.”

Regarding whether, if elected, he would undo the president’s move, Buttigieg responded, “I’m not going to make any declarations now about the future of that status other than to say that on my watch it would not have come about as part of an intervention in Israeli politics.”

The Republican Jewish Coalition immediately challenged the mayor for his response.

“Top tier 2020 Democrat contender apparently wants Syria to have the Golan Heights, supports a foreign policy strategy that denies reality,” tweeted the organization.

However, Buttigieg did not say nor seemed to imply that Syria should have the Golan Heights, which many say is a geographic and strategic asset for the State of Israel.

Buttigieg has pledged, if elected, to keep the U.S. embassy in Israel in Jerusalem, where it was relocated from Tel Aviv in May 2018, but re-enter the United States into the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, which the Trump administration withdrew from, also in May 2018, reimposing sanctions lifted under it alongside enacting new financial penalties against the regime.

In June, along with criticizing the U.S. withdrawal from the Iran deal, Buttigieg warned Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu against fulfilling his campaign promise to annex parts of Judea and Samaria.

“If Prime Minister Netanyahu makes good on his threat to annex West Bank settlements, he should know that a President Buttigieg would take steps to ensure that American taxpayers won’t help foot the bill,” he declared.

While on the soapbox, Buttigieg called for gun-control measures, and also tackled immigration and the economy.

The Iowa Caucus will be held on Feb. 3, 2020.

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