ATLANTA (JTA) — Bernie Sanders got applause at a Democratic presidential debate when he said it is not good enough to be pro-Israel, and called for treating Palestinians with dignity.
Sanders, a Vermont senator and among the front-runners in the race to garner the Democratic nomination, was one of several candidates asked Wednesday by MSNBC/Washington Post moderators whether they would take a tougher stance on Saudi Arabia, considering its human rights abuses and its regional adventurism.
All the candidates said they would be less conciliatory to Saudi Arabia, and Sanders, who is Jewish, volunteered that he would also be tougher on Israel.
“The same thing goes for Israel and the Palestinians,” Sanders said. “It is no longer good enough for us to be pro-Israel, I am pro-Israel, but we must treat the Palestinians with the dignity they deserve.”
The audience in Atlanta applauded. Sanders called the situation in the Gaza Strip, where a majority of the working population is unemployed, “unsustainable.”
The debate, the fifth since June, brought together ten candidates in a state that Democrats hope to flip to their party next year. Moderated by four women journalists — a historic first in political debates — it was the most substantive foreign policy debate so far.
Candidates largely agreed on what they said were Trump’s failures in diminishing American influence in the Koreas and in the Middle East. Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., faulted Trump for pulling out of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.
Former Vice President Joe Biden noted that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, who gets along with Trump, has said Biden should be “beaten to death with a stick.” “Other than that you like him,” Sanders interjected. “Other than that I like him,’ Biden said, to laughter.