Sanders: Positive US-Israel ties depend on Jewish State's relationship with Palestinians

"I believe 100% not only in Israel's right to exist, a right to exist in peace and security without having to face terrorist attacks."

April 5, 2016 18:28
3 minute read.
Bernie Sanders

Democratic US presidential candidate and U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders waves at the start of the Democratic U.S. presidential candidates' debate in Flint, Michigan, March 6, 2016. (photo credit: REUTERS)

Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders said on Monday that if Israel wanted to have a positive relationship with the United States, it would have to improve its relationship with the Palestinians. 

Sanders made the remarks in a long interview with the New York Daily News newspaper. 

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When pushed by the Daily News to elaborate on his past calls for Israel to pull back from West Bank settlements, Sanders said that that at the moment, he was preoccupied with being US senator and presidential candidate, and that any pull back plans would be decided by the Israeli government. 

When pushed for an answer again he gave a fuller answer. 

"Here's the main point that I want to make, I lived in Israel. I have family in Israel. I believe 100% not only in Israel's right to exist, a right to exist in peace and security without having to face terrorist attacks. But from the United States' point of view, I think, long-term, we cannot ignore the reality that you have large numbers of Palestinians who are suffering now, poverty rate off the charts, unemployment off the charts, Gaza remaining a destroyed area," he said. 

"And I think that for long-term peace in that region, and God knows nobody has been successful in that for 60 years, but there are good people on both sides, and Israel is not, cannot, just simply expand when it wants to expand with new settlements. So I think the United States has got to help work with the Palestinian people as well. I think that is the path toward peace," he added.

The nominee was asked if he would expect Israel to pull back settlements, should he, as president, find them in places deemed illegal.

"Israel will make their own decisions. They are a government, an independent nation. But to the degree that they want us to have a positive relationship, I think they're going to have to improve their relationship with the Palestinians," he said.

Baselines for negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians would include "for a start, the absolute condemnation of all terrorist attacks. The idea that in Gaza there were buildings being used to construct missiles and bombs and tunnels, that is not where foreign aid should go. Foreign aid should go to housing and schools, not the development of bombs and missiles." Sanders said. 

The senator was asked about his criticism of Israel and what he said was Israel's disproportionate response in its 2014 war with Hamas in Gaza.

"I think it is fair to say that the level of attacks against civilian areas...and I do know that the Palestinians, some of them, were using civilian areas to launch missiles. Makes it very difficult. But I think most international observers would say that the attacks against Gaza were indiscriminate and that a lot of innocent people were killed who should not have been killed. Look, we are living, for better or worse, in a world of high technology, whether it's drones out there that could, you know, take your nose off, and Israel has that technology. And I think there is a general belief that, with that technology, they could have been more discriminate in terms of taking out weapons that were threatening them," he said.

"My recollection is over 10,000 innocent people were killed in Gaza. Does that sound right?" Sanders asked the interviewer.

"My understanding is that a whole lot of apartment houses were leveled. Hospitals, I think, were bombed. So yeah, I do believe and I don't think I'm alone in believing that Israel's force was more indiscriminate than it should have been," he added.

After checking the facts the interviewer corrected Sanders with the figures of about 2,300 Gazans killed during the 2014 and about 10,000 wounded.

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