Democratic presidential candidate says he would consider using aid to Israel as leverage to force the Israeli government to act differently
By: Ben Ariel
Senator Bernie Sanders, who is seeking the Democratic presidential nomination in the 2020 elections, criticized Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and said the US cannot prioritize the wants and needs of Israel over all else if it wants to help bring peace to the Middle East.
Sanders’ comments were made in an interview with the “Pod Save America” podcast. The Vermont Senator, who is Jewish, opined that the tensions between Israel and Palestinians have become worse under Netanyahu.
“I lived in Israel … I have family in Israel. I am Jewish. I am not anti-Israel. I believe that the people of Israel have absolutely the right to live in peace, independence, and security. End of discussion, that is what I fervently believe,” he said.
“But I think what has happened is in recent years under Netanyahu, you have an extreme right-wing government with many racist tendencies,” charged Sanders.
Sanders said he would “absolutely” consider using the billions of dollars in military aid that the US sends to Israel each year as leverage to force the Israeli government to act differently.
He criticized the Trump administration over its overtures to Israel, asserting that they could put at risk the peace negotiations with the Palestinian Arabs.
“Our policy cannot just be pro-Israel, pro-Israel, pro-Israel. It has got to be pro-region, working with all of the people, all of the countries in that area,” said Sanders, who added that Palestinian Arabs deserve to be treated with dignity and respect.
Despite being Jewish and having spent time in Israel, Sanders has a history of problematic statements on the Jewish state.
In April, he described the Israeli government as “racist” and said that “Netanyahu is a right-wing politician who I think is treating the Palestinian people extremely unfairly.”
Last year, he criticized Netanyahu and his policies, saying, “As someone who believes absolutely and unequivocally in Israel’s right to exist… we must say loudly and clearly, that to oppose the reactionary policies of Prime Minister Netanyahu does not make us anti-Israel.”
In June of 2017, Sanders recorded a video message to the Israeli leftist party Meretz, in which he said, “This occupation must end. Peace, real peace, means security not only for every Israeli, but for every Palestinian. It means supporting self-determination, civil rights and economic well-being for both peoples.” (INN)