During a speech at Dartmouth College on Monday, presidential candidate Dean Phillips compared the Israeli government led by Benjamin Netanyahu to the radical Islamist regime governing Iran and Gaza’s Hamas terrorist organization.
Dean, a Minnesota congressman challenging President Joe Biden for the Democratic nomination, told students at Dartmouth’s Nelson A. Rockefeller Center that young people could “pass the torch to a new generation, which we need here” by showing up to vote in 2o24.
“And we can inspire that all around the world. The Iranian regime, where you have young Iranians disgusted by the people representing them. When you see young Gazans and Palestinians disgusted by Hamas. When you see Israelis disgusted by their own government right now — let’s inspire them by showing them what’s possible in a democracy when the people actually get to make the decisions,” Phillips said.
The modern nation of Israel has been a democracy since its founding in 1948. Not that Phillips always approves of the results of its democratic process.
“Israel needs new leadership,” Phillips said. “I’ve looked Benjamin Netanyahu in the eye. I didn’t like what I saw. I do not like his government. He’s gotta go. Israelis have to make that choice.”
Phillips’ comments echo previous statements he has made comparing President Donald Trump’s election to Hamas’ takeover of the Gaza Strip.
“Hamas imposes themselves,” Phillips said during a campaign stop in Londonderry last week. “These people [in Gaza] are desperate for authentic leadership. Just like half of America wanted Donald Trump, but Donald Trump didn’t represent my country. He did not represent my values. Hamas does not represent Palestinian values.”
At Dartmouth, Phillips told students he intends to be the first Jewish president of the United States and that he also “intends to be the president who signs documents to help create a Palestinian state.” He argued the U.S. and the West should continue to push for a solution despite the violence spread by Hamas from within a largely independent Gaza.
While Phillips was critical of Israel and the Netanyahu government, he was also blunt in his description of the actions of Hamas on Oct. 7. And he expressed his disappointment over the support for Hamas and the anti-Israel sentiment he encountered in the liberal community of Hanover, N.H., where Dartmouth is located.
Phillips recounted images of the Oct. 7 attacks he said members of Congress were able to view, including an unborn child ripped from the mother’s womb and children killed in front of their parents.
“And I have to say, I was at Lou’s Diner [in Hanover] today, and for the first time, I had interactions that hurt me. When I hear people say, ‘I support Hamas,’ or won’t say that Israel has the right to exist, that really hurts me.”
Phillips blamed a failing education system in part for the problem.
“When half of American high schoolers aren’t familiar with the Holocaust, it’s no wonder they don’t understand the need for a nation where Jews can go when — not if, but when — the next pogrom occurs.”
At the same time, Phillips went out of his way to call U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib “a friend of mine,” and he often refers to her as a “dear friend.”
He acknowledges some of her statements — like “From the river to the sea, Palestine shall be free” — are “offensive,” but he insisted Tlaib does not support the annihilation of Israel. “I know her heart,” Phillips said.
Asked about Tlaib’s “river to the sea” rhetoric, which many Jewish organizations have denounced as an antisemitic call for the destruction of the Jewish state, Phillips insisted that is not what Tlaib has in mind.
“She does not believe that. I know her language is offensive, but she does not want the full annihilation of Israel,” Phillips told a Jewish voter in Londonderry. He explained that he opposed censure for Tlaib because “this time begs for leadership in a way that is not being exhibited.
“If we think the answer is all these condemnations and censures and that somehow that’s going to result in the seeds of peace, forget it. I’m saying, look — imagine having to sit down with the Palestinian leadership to make peace,” Phillips said.
“It’s going to take people like Rashida Tlaib and Dean Phillips to do it.”