Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) speaks after the senate voted on a resolution ending U.S. military support for the war in Yemen on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., December 13, 2018..
(photo credit: REUTERS/JOSHUA ROBERTS)
Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders expressed his willingness to move the US Embassy from Jerusalem back to Tel Aviv if it would help bring peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians, during an NBC interview this week.
Sixty-nine years after Israel declared Jerusalem as its capital, and 23 years after the US Congress passed a law mandating that Washington move its embassy there, the US formally opened its embassy in the city last year, in a move Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called "courageous" and "momentous."
"What a glorious day. Remember this moment!" Netanyahu entreated the applauding crowd. "President Trump, by recognizing history, you have made history. All of us are deeply moved. All of us are deeply grateful."
"Last December, President [Donald] Trump became the first world leader to recognize Jerusalem as our capital, and today, the United States of America is opening its embassy right here in Jerusalem," Netanyahu said. "Thank you President Trump, for having the courage to keep your promises!"
Trump mentioned that the US would still be observing the status quo in terms of contested territories, such as the area known as the Temple Mount.
The Palestinian Authority filed an “indictment” with the International Court of Justice in The Hague against the United States last week on the one-year anniversary of the relocation of the US Embassy to Jerusalem, yet many analysts are skeptical that the action will bear fruit.
According to the ICJ, which acts under the auspices of the United Nations, the Palestinians are basing their claim on the 1961 Vienna Convention of Diplomatic Relations, which requires a country to locate its embassy on the internationally recognized territory of a host state. While Israel in 1980 passed a law to annex all of Jerusalem, the status of the holy city remains in dispute.
In a statement, PA Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki, who submitted the claim, wrote: “After the Trump Administration carried out its provocative and illegal action, the State of Palestine continues to seek justice and accountability through the tools and mechanisms available to law-abiding and respecting [nations] within the international system.”
Sanders has called the Netanyahu government “racist” in the past, most recently at a CNN Town Hall on last month.
The comments were made in response to a question of how he would maintain the strong relations between the United States and Israel, despite his criticism. The senator claimed that he is not anti-Israel, and noted that some members of his family live there and that he volunteered on a kibbutz decades ago.
“As a young man I spent a number of months in Israel, [and] worked on a kibbutz for while. I have family in Israel. I am not anti-Israel. But the fact of the matter is that Netanyahu is a right-wing politician who I think is treating the Palestinian people extremely unfairly,” he said.
Sanders defined himself as “100% pro Israel” but said that he would approach the Israeli-Palestinian conflict differently than past administrations.
“In other words, the goal is to try to unite people and not just support one country, which is now run by a right-wing, dare I say, racist government,” he said. "Israel has every right in the world to exist... in peace and security, and not be subjected to terrorist attacks. But the United States needs to deal with the Palestinian [people] as well and not just Israel."
Sanders noted that the United States gives billions of dollars a year to Israel in military aid, "which [I] believe is not radical,” Sanders added. “I just believe that the United States should deal with the Middle East on a level playing field basis."
Arianne Mandel, Charles Bybelezer and Mohammad al-Kassim contributed to this report.
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