Vermont Senator and Democratic presidential hopeful, Bernie Sanders, said on Monday that he hopes to become the first Jewish president of the US.
“I am very proud to be Jewish and look forward to being the first Jewish president,” he said in his remarks at the J Street conference in Washington. “I spent many months on a kibbutz in Israel, [and] I believe absolutely not only in the right of Israel to exist but the right to exist in peace and security. That’s not a question. But what I also believe is the Palestinian people have a right to live in peace and security as well. It is not antisemitism to say that [Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s] government has been racist.”
Speaking about his plans to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, he said he would “demand” that the Israeli government sit down with the Palestinian people, “and negotiate an agreement that works for all parties.”
“My proposal in terms of Israeli-Palestinian efforts is not a radical proposal,” he continued. “All it says is that we need an even-hand proposal for both people. What is going on in Gaza right now, for example, is absolutely inhumane. It is unacceptable. It is unsustainable.”
He addressed the US military assistance to Israel and said it could be used as leverage on the Israeli government. “I would use the leverage of $3.8 billion – it is a lot of money, and we cannot give it carte blanche to the Israeli government, or for that matter to any government at all. We have a right to demand respect for human rights and democracy.”
Asked about the closure of the Palestinian consulate in east Jerusalem, Sanders said that “what [US President Donald] Trump has done is disgraceful. As president of the United States, of course, we would reach out and re-established relationships [with the Palestinians].
He added that it isn’t only Netanyahu’s government that has been the problem. “Let us recognize there has been corruption in terms of Hamas and the Palestinian Authority,” he said. “Let’s recognize that as well.”
The senator also called the situation in Gaza “unsustainable,” and said, “I think it is fair to say that some of that $3.8b. should go right now into humanitarian aid in Gaza.”
Asked about whether Netanyahu and Trump made the support for Israel a partisan issue, Sanders responded: “You’re looking at leaders – one is going to be impeached, the other one may end up in jail, so I don’t know how much credibility they have, actually in terms of integrity.”