Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) campaigns in Cleveland.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu "overreacted" by launching Operation Protective Edge, the Israeli military offensive against the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip last summer, Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders told Rolling Stone magazine.
Sanders, the Brooklyn-born liberal senator from Vermont, was asked which policy his administration would adopt as it relates to the Middle East.
"The United States will support the security of Israel, help Israel fight terrorist attacks against that country and maintain its independence," the Jewish senator said. "But under my administration, the United States will maintain an even-handed approach to the area."
"I believe in a two-state solution, where Israel has security and the Palestinians have a state of their own," he told Rolling Stone
. "The United States has got to work with the Palestinian people in improving their standard of living, which is now a disaster, and has been made much worse since the war in Gaza."
When reminded that he once said he wasn't a "fan" of the Israeli prime minister, Sanders remarked that he believed Israel went too far in inflicting devastation on the Gaza Strip last summer.
"War is terrible unto itself," the Vermont senator is quoted as saying. "But I think that Israel overreacted and caused more civilian damage than was necessary. They have very sophisticated weapons systems. They make the case, and I respect that, that they do try to make sure that civilians are not damaged. But the end result was that a lot of civilians were killed and a lot of housing was destroyed. There was terrible, terrible damage done."
Operation Protective Edge was a 50-day Israeli air and ground offensive aimed at halting Palestinian rocket fire against southern and central Israel.
On the Israeli side, 66 soldiers and seven civilians were killed and 469 soldiers and 87 other civilians were wounded.
In Gaza, meanwhile, the casualty count was much more substantial - over 2,200 killed and nearly 11,000 wounded. The Gaza Strip also suffered serious damage to its physical infrastructure, with thousands of homes having been destroyed by Israeli bombardments.