Foreign Minister Israel Katz on Wednesday lashed out at Jewish presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders for what he called his "horrifying comment" about potentially returning the U.S. embassy from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv.
According to Katz, those who support Israel would not back Sanders' presidential candidacy after such remarks.
At a contentious Democratic debate on Tuesday night in South Carolina, Sanders labeled Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a "reactionary racist" and said he'd consider reversing U.S. President Donald Trump's move of the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem in 2018 and return it to Tel Aviv.
Katz said there was a not a Jew in the world who "hasn't dreamed of Jerusalem" and Sanders' words were so severe that he had no choice but to retort.
"We don't intervene in the internal American electoral process, which is splendid," Katz told Army Radio, before saying that Sanders has a long history of attacking Israel and the things most sacred to its identity and national security.
"Naturally, people who support Israel will not support someone who goes against these things."
Sanders' comments at the debate came after he recently announced he would skip an appearance before the pro-Israel lobby AIPAC, which he called a "platform for bigotry."
The Vermont senator has also called for cutting back American foreign aid to Israel and redirecting it to the Palestinians instead.
Sanders, who if elected would become America's first Jewish president, doubled down Tuesday, saying "what you cannot ignore is the suffering of the Palestinian people."
Sanders prefaced his remarks by saying he was "very proud of being Jewish," and noted how he had volunteered in the 1960s on a kibbutz, where he honed his leftist leanings.
But his harsh criticism of modern-day Israeli policies, and embrace of supporters who have called to boycott Israel and been accused of anti-Semitism, has raised great concerns in the Jewish state about his surging candidacy.
Sanders has firmly established himself in the lead after scoring primary and caucus victories in the first three nominating states: Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada.
Blue & White co-leader Yair Lapid, who aims to replace Katz as foreign minister after next week's elections, said in a recent interview that he was "very worried" about Sanders' rise because of his "lack of understanding of our unique situation in the Middle East."
The majority of American Jews vote Democrat and have been very critical of the Trump presidency.
But in Israel, Trump has been warmly embraced by Netanyahu and his allies, which has contributed to undermining the traditional bi-partisan support for Israel in the United States.
Even so, Trump remains very popular in Israel for backing it in a hostile region and delivering it a string of diplomatic achievements.
Last month, Trump unveiled his much-anticipated plan to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It sided with Israel on most of its core demands and granted it sovereignty over large parts of the West Bank that the Palestinians seek for a future state.
Previously, Trump reversed decades of American foreign policy by recognizing Jerusalem as Israel's capital and moving its embassy there.
Michael Bloomberg, another Jewish candidate seeking the Democratic nomination, said at Tuesday's debate that it was too late to reverse the embassy move and people should instead focus on advancing a two-state solution.