Sanders proposes leveraging aid for Israel

Sanders proposes leveraging aid for Israel
© Aaron Schwartz

White House hopeful Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersSanders 'outraged' after MLB threatens to cut ties with minor league teams Booker leads other 2020 Dems in petition urging DNC to change debate qualifications Democrats threaten to skip next debate over labor dispute MORE (I-Vt.) proposed at a town hall Tuesday leveraging billions of dollars in aid to Israel to push the country to change some of its policies. 

Sanders, a fierce critic of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin NetanyahuBenjamin (Bibi) NetanyahuMORE, who is currently working to form a right-wing governing coalition, said the leverage could be used to shift Israeli policies and craft a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that is amenable to both parties.

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“The goal of the United States has got to be is to bring people in the region together, the Palestinians and the Israelis, to create a kind of workable peace which works for both parties, not just one,” Sanders said Tuesday in New Hampshire.

“The United States government gives a whole lot of money to Israel, and I think we can leverage that money to end some of the racism that we have recently seen in Israel.”

The Sanders campaign did not immediately respond to an inquiry from The Hill regarding how much money it would try to leverage and with which specific policies Sanders disagrees.

The U.S. and Israel inked an agreement in 2016 that would send $38 billion in military aid to Jerusalem over a 10-year span, the largest such aid package in U.S. history. Activists have long decried the agreement, saying taxpayer dollars should not be helping fund Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and or its blockade of the Gaza Strip.

The Vermont Independent first spoke of leveraging funds to Israel in July on the podcast “Pod Save America,” in which he said Netanyahu leads “an extreme right-wing government with many racist tendencies.”

However, Sanders, who is Jewish, assured voters that his position did not make him anti-Israel and that criticism of the Israeli government does not qualify one as anti-Semitic.

“All that I have ever said on this issue is that U.S. foreign policy should be even-handed. That’s all, even-handed, and that you have to, we respect Israel, Israel has every right in the world to live in peace and security. But so do the Palestinian people. So do the Palestinian people,” he said. 

“And as somebody who is proudly Jewish, to be critical of a right-wing Netanyahu government in Israel is not to be anti-Semitic.”

President TrumpDonald John TrumpRepublicans aim to avoid war with White House over impeachment strategy New York Times editorial board calls for Trump's impeachment Trump rips Michigan Rep. Dingell after Fox News appearance: 'Really pathetic!' MORE has openly embraced Netanyahu and emerged as one of Israel’s staunchest supporters in the U.S. However, controversial moves including moving the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem have sparked criticism on Capitol Hill that his support could endanger progress in negotiations with Palestinians.