(JTA) — Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders said he would “absolutely” consider cutting U.S. aid to Israel to pressure the Israeli government to act differently.
“This is not easy stuff — to try to finally bring peace to the Middle East and to treat the Palestinian people with a kind of respect and dignity they deserve,” he told host Jon Favreau on the Pod Save America podcast. “Our policy cannot just be pro-Israel pro-Israel pro-Israel. It has got to be pro-region working with all of the people, all of the countries in that area.”
Sanders, who spent time in the 1960s when he was in his 20s working on a kibbutz in Israel, tried to clarify his statements “before the tweets start flowing” saying “I have family in Israel. I am Jewish. I am not anti-Israel. Okay, I believe that the people of Israel have absolutely the right to live in peace, independence and security. End of discussion — that is what I fervently believe.”
“We have spent trillions of dollars on the war on terror, and I, as president, would like to sit down in a room with the leadership of Saudi Arabia, with the leadership of Iran, with the leadership of the Palestinians, with the leadership of Israel and hammer out some damn agreements, which will try to end the conflicts that exist there forever.”
He criticized the current Israeli government, however, adding: “I think what has happened is in recent years under Netanyahu, you have an extreme right-wing government with many racist tendencies.”