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Views on Israel of U.S. Presidential Candidates 2020:
Pete Buttigieg

(1982 - )

Peter Paul Montgomery Buttigieg* was born on January 19, 1982, in South Bend, Indiana, the only child of Jennifer Anne (née Montgomery) and Joseph Buttigieg. Pete is a Christian, and has said his faith has had a strong influence in his life.

In 2000, Buttigieg was valedictorian of his high school senior class at St. Joseph High School in South Bend. That year he was the recipient of a first prize for the JFK Profiles in Courage Essay Contest awarded by the John F. Kennedy Library in Boston. Buttigieg had written about the integrity and political courage demonstrated by U.S. Congressman Bernie Sanders of Vermont.

Buttigieg attended Harvard College, majoring in history and literature. While at Harvard he was president of the Harvard Institute of Politics Student Advisory Committee and worked on the institute’s annual study of youth attitudes on politics. He wrote his undergraduate thesis on the influence of puritanism on U.S. foreign policy as reflected in Graham Greene’s novel The Quiet American.

Upon graduating from Harvard in 2005, Buttigieg was awarded a Rhodes Scholarship and, in 2007, he received a Bachelor of Arts with first-class honors in philosophy, politics and economics from Pembroke College, Oxford (later promoted to a Master of Arts (Oxon) per tradition).

Before graduating from college, Buttigieg worked as an investigative intern at WMAQ-TV, Chicago’s NBC news affiliate. He also worked as an intern for Jill Long Thompson’s unsuccessful 2002 congressional campaign. He later served as an adviser to her unsuccessful 2008 gubernatorial campaign.

From 2004 to 2005, Buttigieg worked in Washington, D.C., as conference director for former Secretary of Defense William Cohen’s international strategic consulting firm, The Cohen Group. He also spent several months working on Senator John Kerry’s 2004 presidential campaign, where he was a policy and research specialist.

He worked as a consultant at McKinsey & Company from 2007 through 2010.

Buttigieg was commissioned as a naval intelligence officer in the Navy Reserve in 2009, and deployed to Afghanistan in 2014 where he was assigned to the Afghan Threat Finance Cell, a counterterrorism unit that targeted Taliban insurgency financing. For his counterterrorism work, he earned the Joint Service Commendation Medal.

After a seven-month deployment, Buttigieg returned to South Bend. He remained a lieutenant in the Naval Reserve until 2017.

Buttigieg ran unsuccessfully for State Treasurer of Indiana in 2010. A year later, he was elected mayor of South Bend. He took office in January 2012 at age 29 and was reelected in 2014.

In a June 2015 essay in the South Bend Tribune, Buttigieg announced that he is gay. He is the first openly gay municipal executive in Indiana.

The Washington Post called Buttigieg "the most interesting mayor you’ve never heard of" based on his youth, education, and military background. In 2016, the New York Times columnist Frank Bruni published a column praising his work as mayor with a headline asking if he might be "the first gay president."

Buttigieg was named a 2014 Aspen Institute Rodel Fellow. He was named a recipient of the John F. Kennedy New Frontier Fenn Award in 2015.

Buttigieg speaks Norwegian, Spanish, Italian, Maltese, Arabic, Farsi, and French. Buttigieg plays guitar and piano and, in 2013, performed with the South Bend Symphony Orchestra as a guest piano soloist along with Ben Folds.

In December 2017, Buttigieg announced his engagement to Chasten Glezman, a junior high school teacher whom Buttigieg had been dating since August 2015. They were married on June 16, 2018, in a private ceremony at the Cathedral of St. James. They live in the same South Bend neighborhood where Buttigieg grew up.

In May 2018, Buttigieg visited Israel with the American Jewish Committee’s Project Interchange.

On April 14, 2019, Buttigieg announced he was running for the Democratic nomination for President in the 2020 election. If elected, he would be the youngest and the first openly LGBT American president.

Foreign Policy Adviser

Doug Wilson is a former Pentagon official.

Ned Price was a senior analyst at the CIA, Special Assistant to President Obama for National Security Affairs and the National Security Council Spokesperson. He is now an NBC News Analyst and Lecturer at George Washington University.

Vali Nasr is the former dean of the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies.

Wilson and Price are members of the National Security Action’s advisory board, which is lobbying to end support for Saudi Arabia’s involvement in the war in Yemen and opposes President Trump’s “maximum pressure” campaign against Iran.


Anti-Semitism

  • Buttigieg accused the White House of welcoming those who “are blatantly anti-Semitic” and excusing “people who walk the streets chanting ‘Jews will not replace us.’” (JTA, May 26, 2019)
     
  •  “I disagree with [Rep. Ilhan Omar’s] comments comparing Israel to Iran. People like me get strung up in Iran. So the idea that what’s going on is equivalent is just wrong.” (“The View,” January 31, 2019)

Israel

  • Asked about Israel’s decision to bar Reps. Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib from entering Israel, Buttigieg called it a “political move” and said, “The whole basis of our alliance with Israel is that we’re both democracies….It’s disappointing to see an undemocratic act like banning somebody from your country because you don’t like what they say.” He added, “It benefits everybody in the long run if those principles of freedom of expression are honored by both countries as we move forward.” (CBS, August 16, 2019).

  • Asked about U.S. recognition of Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights, Buttigieg said, “There are very legitimate Israeli security concerns. 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 [future].”

    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 the intervention of Israeli [politics].” (JNS, August 13, 2019)

  • “The security of Israel has been a tenet of U.S. foreign policy. It is very much in our national interest, which is why neither American nor Israeli leaders should play personal politics with the security of Israel. Just as an American patriot may oppose the policies of the American president, a supporter of Israel may oppose the policies of the Israeli government….”

    “If Prime Minister Netanyahu makes good on his threat to annex West Bank settlements, a President Buttigieg will take steps to ensure that American taxpayers won’t foot the bill.” (CSPAN, June 11, 2019)

  • “The occupation has to end.”

    “Even people associated with the Israeli right like Sharon — toward the end of his life — recognize that this state of affairs is unsustainable. And the pathway to peace has to include Israelis and Palestinians living side by side with self-determination. That is the right answer for our own security interests and a stable Middle East as well as for an Israeli future that is Jewish and democratic and for the future of the Palestinian people.”

    “There is, I think, a frankly healthier discussion happening among the American Jewish community today than there has been in some time and, frankly a healthier discussion than there is in the American Congress right now….”

    “You can care about Israel’s future and believe in the U.S.-Israel relationship and alliance with Israel without being on board with the right-wing policies by the Netanyahu government which is now walking away from peace in a way that I think will harm the Israeli people, the Palestinian people and, in the long run, the American people. So that I believe as the most important ally that Israel has, we need to do what you do when you have a friend who’s doing something you think is harmful. You put your arm around your friend and try to guide them to a better place.” (Twitter, July 12, 2019)

  • Asked by the New York Times, “Do you think Israel meets international standards of human rights?” Buttigieg responded, “I think that Israel’s human rights record is problematic and moving in the wrong direction under the current right-wing government. Look, the U.S. can be committed to Israeli security and to the U.S.-Israel alliance while also guiding our ally in a direction that leads toward peace. I am very worried, especially with some of the latest talk about annexation of the West Bank, that their government is moving away from peace in a way that is damaging in the long run to Israeli and Palestinian, and for that matter, American interests.” (New York Times, June 19, 2019)

  • Buttigieg told Axios that he would not relocate the U.S. embassy in Israel to Tel Aviv if elected president in 2020. “I think what's done is done….We need a big picture strategy on the Middle East. I don’t know that we'd gain much by moving it to Tel Aviv.”

    AXIOS: So President Trump did the right thing?

    “I didn’t say that.”

    "Here’s the problem with what he did," Buttigieg said, "[if] you’re going to make a concession like that, if you’re going to give somebody something that they’ve wanted for a long time in the context of a push-pull, even with a strong ally like Israel, right? We have a push-pull relationship. And you don’t do that without getting some kind of concession. Instead, we’ve seen the Israeli government continue to act in ways that are detrimental to peace. And I believe, therefore, also detrimental to U.S. interests.”

    The same thing with the recognition of the Golan. Look, the Israelis claims are not something to be ignored. They have a lot to do with legitimate security interests. But we when we did that we were doing something that could have been part of a negotiated package and instead we just gave it away. Worse, we gave it away probably for the specific purpose of having an impact in Israeli domestic politics which should be the last reason that we would be conducting U.S. foreign policy. It should be designed around American values, American interests, and American international relationships.

    Buttigieg was also asked about the Palestinian demand that refugees be allowed to return to their homes. “I think that concept can be honored in the context of a negotiated peace,” he said. “I don’t think it should be presumptively declared by a U.S. presidential candidate.”

    “I’m concerned though that we’re walking away from the possibility of peace. When you have the Israeli government talking about annexing parts of the West Bank.”

    So you would not insist on that?

    “I think it could be honored as part of the framework of a negotiation. I’m not going to declare it at the outset as a precondition for peace.” (Axios, June 16, 2019)

  • “Israeli and Palestinian citizens should be able to enjoy the freedom to go about their daily lives without fear, and to work to achieve economic well-being for their families. As Israel’s most powerful and most reliable ally, the United States has the opportunity to shape a more constructive path with the tough and honest guidance that friendship and fairness require. The current state of affairs cannot endure. The pressure of history and the mathematics of demography mean that well before 2054 Israelis and Palestinians will have come to see either peace or catastrophe. A two-state solution that achieves legitimate Palestinian aspirations and meets Israel’s security needs remains the only viable way forward, and it will be our policy to support such a solution.”

    “A two-state solution that achieves legitimate Palestinian aspirations and meets Israel's security needs remains the only viable way forward.” (IsraelInsider, June 11, 2019)

  • Buttigieg said the United States needs to encourage what he called the right-wing government in Israel to use military force only when necessary and to preserve the rights of all its citizens.

    He said the closer an ally, the more important it is to speak truth to them, asserting the security and survival of Israel is vital to the United States.

    Regarding Netanyahu’s pre-election promise to annex settlements: “He should know that a President Buttigieg would take steps to make sure that American taxpayers won’t help foot the bill.”

    Buttigieg added that he supports a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and that the leadership on both sides is at fault for the current stalemate. He warned that Netanyahu is “turning away from peace” and added that “a supporter of Israel may also oppose the policies of the right-wing Israeli government.” (Indianapolis Star and Haaretz, June 11, 2019)

  • One of the “biggest problems” facing American policy with respect to Israeli and Palestinian leadership, he said, is “we don’t have the right kinds of partners in leadership on the Palestinian side, is that we have to invest more energy in constraining their worst impulses than in trying to get a good outcome.” (JTA, May 26, 2019)
     
  • “The right approach when you have an ally or a friend that is taking steps that you think are harmful to you and to them, you put your arm around your friend and you try to guide them somewhere else.” (NBC News, June 23, 2019)
     
  • Robert Costa: What should Prime Minister Netanyahu expect if you were President of the United States? Should he expect the same level of support and alliance that he sees with President Trump?

    Buttigieg: “He should expect America to be a friend and ally to Israel.”

    Costa: What about to him?

    Buttigieg: “One that is loyal to the terms of our alliance and concerned about Israeli security interests, but also not loyal to him or anyone. Look, being supportive of Israel, in the same way that being patriotic and pro-American doesn't have to mean you are pro-Trump. Being supportive of Israel does not have to mean that you are on board with the agenda of the Israeli political right wing. I am not… And so what Israel can expect from the U.S., as any friend ought to be able to expect from an honest friend, is that when they take a step that is harmful, you put your arm around your friend and you try to guide them somewhere else.” (C-Span, May 23, 2019)
     
  • Following a campaign pledge by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for saying he would annex parts of the West Bank if he was re-elected, Buttigieg tweeted:  “This provocation is harmful to Israeli, Palestinian, and American interests. Supporting Israel does not have to mean agreeing with Netanyahu’s politics. I don’t. This calls for a president willing to counsel our ally against abandoning a two-state solution.” (JTA, April 7, 2019)
     
  • “I was in Israel in May of this year and not only is there a real problem with how they’re going balance being a democracy with being a Jewish state, but they’ve also got to figure out, and we’ve got to figure out with them, as an ally, what the regional security picture is going look like in the future... What’s going on with the Palestinians — it has always been one of the most fiendishly complicated issues, and simple answers will not serve us well at a time like this.” (“The View,” January 31, 2019)
     
  • “Seeing the way that a country can be on the one hand very intentional, very serious, and very effective when it comes to security and on the other hand not allowing concerns about security to dominate your consciousness,” he said, “I think that’s a very important lesson that hopefully Americans can look to when we think about how to navigate a world that unfortunately has become smaller and more dangerous for all of us.” (Haaretz, April 15, 2019)
     
  • Buttigieg said he wants America to help make “a world where Israelis and Palestinians are able to live in peace side by side.”

    “There really is not a unified or single voice for the Palestinian people,” Buttigieg said. “Most people aren’t aware of the difference between what’s happening in Gaza — run by Hamas in a way that is contributing to a lot of misery there — but also totally different than an environment where you’d have a negotiating partner across the table.” (Vox, April 3, 2019)

Iran

  • “As even this administration repeatedly certified, [the JCPOA] was preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. This helps constrain the military threat that Iran poses to Israel and Europe without leading us down a path to another middle eastern war. This agreement was concluded not to do Iran a favor but because it is in our national security interest, just as a parallel policy of confronting Iran’s support for terrorism and its dismal human rights record reflect our values and interests.” (CSPAN, June 11, 2019)

  • “Preventing the spread of nuclear weapons should remain a core tenet of our global leadership. For this reason, I will rejoin our international partners and recommit the U.S. to the Iran nuclear deal.” (IsraelInsider, June 11, 2019)

  • Buttigieg said a nuclear Iran poses too great a threat on Israel and Europe. “Whatever its imperfections,” the Iran nuclear deal “was perhaps as close to the real ‘Art of the Deal’ as diplomatic achievements get,” he said, referencing the title of President Donald Trump’s business-oriented memoir. (Indianapolis Star, June 11, 2019)

  • “I’m extremely concerned about what appears to be an escalation with respect to Iran, not only because it’s unclear what the administration’s policy is but also because I’m afraid this could actually get away from the president.” (@thehill, May 27, 2019)

  • Re tension with Iran: “This is not a game. This is not a show. We’ve got to make sure that security decisions are not made based on politics but are the right decision... The relationship between what the president says and what the president does has always been suspect. This is something that should be taken extremely seriously, and it’s why I hope and pray there are enough people in Congress to recognize that if there was ever a moment to stop Congress’ abandonment of its own war powers and get on the record on this issue, it is now.” (USA Today¸ May 16, 2019)

*AICE does not rate or endorse any candidate for political office.


Sources: “Pete Buttigieg,” Wikipedia;
Pete 2020;
The View,” (January 31, 2019);
Ron Kampeas, “Democratic presidential candidates: You can slam Netanyahu, even as a ‘racist,’ and be pro-Israel,” JTA, (April 7, 2019);
Alex Ward, “Democrats are increasingly critical of Israel. Not Pete Buttigieg,” Vox, (April 3, 2019);
“Pete Buttigieg Brings pro-Israel, ‘Religious Left’ Message to 2020 Democratic Primary,” Haaretz, (April 15, 2019);
Aamer Madhani, “Buttigieg blasts Trump Iran escalation: ‘This is not a game. This is not a show,’” USA Today¸ (May 16, 2019);
“Pete Buttigieg Says President Trump Faked Disability to Avoid Serving in Vietnam,” (C-Span, May 23, 2019);
Josh Lederman, “Buttigieg tells Jewish leaders U.S. should guide Israel toward better policies,” NBC News, June 23, 2019);
Cnaan Liphshiz, “Pete Buttigieg Says Palestinian Leaders Are No Partner for Peace and Israel Needs ‘Guidance,’” JTA, (May 26, 2019);
Chris Sikich. “Pete Buttigieg just rolled out details on his foreign policy vision. Here are the big takeaways,” Indianapolis Star, (June 11, 2019);
Amir Tibon, “Americans ‘Should Not Foot the Bill’ if Israel Were to Annex West Bank, Says Buttigieg,” Haaretz, (June 11, 2019);
Jacob Kornbluh, “Buttigieg: Iran deal was close to a true ‘Art of the Deal,’” IsraelInsider, (June 11, 2019);
“18 Questions. 21 Democrats. Here’s What They Said,” New York Times, (June 19, 2019);
“Pete Buttigieg says he won't reverse Trump’s Jerusalem move,” Axios, (June 16, 2019);
Robert Mackey, “Pete Buttigieg and Joe Biden Condemn Israeli Occupation, as Young American Jews Urge Democrats to Press Israel,” The Intercept, (July 13, 2019);
Peter Beinart, “Netanyahu Has Changed The Democratic Party - One Candidate At A Time,” Forward, (June 12, 2019);
“Pete Buttigieg on U.S. Foreign Policy,” CSPAN, (June 11, 2019);
Jackson Richman, “Buttigieg calls US recognition of Golan as ‘interference’ in Israeli politics,” JNS, (August 13, 2019);
Caroline Cumming, “In Iowa, Buttigieg pressed about Trump, Israel barring U.S. congresswomen from entry,” CBS, (August 16, 2019);
Al-Monitor, (September 13, 2019).