Sen Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, the race’s only Jewish candidate, had some pointed things to say about Israel and its Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, at the December Democratic debate in Los Angeles. The New York Post explains.
“We must understand that right now in Israel we have leadership who has been indicted for bribery, who, in my view, is a racist,” said Sanders.
“Before the accusation, Sanders explained that the US should craft foreign policy that is favorable to both Israel and Palestine. Israel has the right not only to exist but to exist in peace and security,’ said Sanders, who spent time on a kibbutz in Israel as a young man. But, what US foreign policy must be about is not just being pro-Israel. We must be pro-Palestinian as well.’”
Sanders, as the Times of Israel notes, is open to using military aid to the Jewish state as leverage to compel it to be more accommodating to the Palestinians, not just the Palestinian Authority on the West Bank, but to Hamas ruled Gaza. Sanders had some harsh words about Gaza as well.
“What we need is a level playing field in terms of the Middle East, which addresses the terrible crisis in Gaza, where 60 percent or 70% of the young people are unemployed.”
It should be noted that while Sanders has slammed the elected leader of one of America’s warmest allies as a “racist,” he has not been as harsh about the leadership of Israel’s enemies, including Moammar Abbas of the Palestinian Authority or the mullahs in Iran. While Sanders claims Israel has a right to exist in peace and security, he has not referenced who and what constitutes a threat to the existence of the Jewish state.
Israel is under constant threat of rocket attack and suicide bombing. Iran has threatened to annihilate the Jewish state and is building a nuclear and missile arsenal with which to carry out that threat. Sanders’ rhetoric suggests that he thinks that Israel’s “intransigence” is the sole barrier to Middle East peace and what has been referred to as a “two-state solution.” He has not been asked how insulting the democratically elected leader of an allied nation will contribute to the cause of peace.
Netanyahu, before he entered Israeli politics, served in that country’s special forces, participating in numerous operations. He is a veteran of the Yom Kippur War of 1973. His brother, Jonathon Netanyahu, was killed in action while leading the raid on Entebbe, freeing Jewish hostages that had been taken in an airliner hijacking by Palestinian and German terrorists.
Sanders is not an outlier among Democrats where it comes to Middle East policy. Mayor of South Bend Pete Buttigieg joined in Sanders’ harsh criticism of Israel and suggested that he too would use military aid as a weapon to compel the Israelis to make concessions to their enemies.
Buttigieg went on to suggest that President Trump’s friendlier policy toward Israel is motivated by “domestic politics.” The Trump administration has moved the American embassy to Jerusalem, the capital of Israel, and has recognized its sovereignty over the Golan Heights.
It has also suggested that Jewish settlements in the West Bank do not constitute a barrier to peace, a break from the policy of previous administrations. The Trump Administration has tried to broker a peace between Israel its Palestinian neighbors, but its efforts have been met with steadied disinterest from the Palestinians.
Former Vice President Biden was equally harsh about current Trump Administration policies toward Israel.
“There’s no solution for Israel other than a two-state solution. It does not exist. It’s not possible to have a Jewish state in the Middle East without there being a two-state solution. And [Trump] has played to all the same fears and all the prejudices that exist in this country and in Israel.”
Biden did not mention the source of those fears and “prejudices” that many Middle Eastern observers suggest stem from the unrelenting hostility from the Palestinians. Neither he nor the other Democrats expanded on what they think a “two-state solution” might be and how it would ensure a Middle East peace. The Palestinians have demanded a state that would extend “from the river to the sea.” Meaning from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean, which would leave no room for the State of Israel.
Biden also suggested that he has told Netanyahu that what he is doing is “outrageous.” The Obama administration, of which Biden was a part, treated Israel and Netanyahu personally with a great deal of hostility.