TEL AVIV – In his latest anti-Israel remarks, Senator Bernie Sanders on Sunday said that President Barack Obama has been too supportive of Israel and was not sufficiently supportive of the Palestinians.
The Democratic candidate, speaking to ABC’s George Stephanopoulos, also qualified comments he made during a debate with frontrunner Hillary Clinton last Thursday, in which he attacked Israel for its “disproportionate” response in defending itself against Hamas in 2014’s Operation Protective Edge.
Sanders has called on the U.S. to take an “evenhanded” approach in dealing with the conflict, and said that even though Obama has fared better than his predecessors in his attitude towards the Palestinians, the U.S. still had “ways to go.”
Watch the interview here:
Obama’s open criticism of Israel has often been translated into punitive measures against the Jewish state, including stopping a routine shipment of arms during a critical stage of the 2014 war.
However, Sanders said his criticism was directed at former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
“She gave a speech to AIPAC. It was a long speech. There was only one sentence I believe that even mentioned the Palestinians,” he said.
In her speech at the American-Israeli confab, Clinton lambasted the Palestinian leadership for inciting terrorism and compensating the families of terrorists.
While Sanders reaffirmed his belief that Israel has a right to exist, he insisted that “you cannot ignore the suffering of the Palestinian people. And long-term, the only way we bring peace to that region…”
He was cut off by Stephanopoulos, who asked, “do you think Secretary Clinton has ignored the suffering of the Palestinian people?”
“Well, I think if you listen to her (AIPAC) speech, that was the major speech, she had one line on the Palestinian people. I think that Israel has every right in the world to respond to terrorism, but I think in the Gaza war it was a disproportionate response,” he answered.
Sanders then reiterated his condemnation of Israel for the casualties in Protective Edge, with the claim that Israel killed 1,500 civilians and wounded a further 10,000. This contrasted with the erroneous statistic Sanders used two weeks ago when he claimed that Israel had killed 10,000 “innocent people.” When it was pointed out that the number was closer to one-fifth of that – with over half of those killed being terrorists – Sanders denied he’d ever made the claim.
“And you can’t just always nod your head to [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu. He is wrong on occasion,” Sanders added in Sunday’s interview with ABC.
Responding to a statement by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) that Sanders’ comments “play into the hands that Israel is the main problem in this conflict,” he said:
“I didn’t say Israel is the main problem,” and emphasized the word “main.”
“All I am saying is that you cannot ignore the needs of the Palestinian people.”
He expounded on Israel’s destruction of Gaza, while failing to mention Hamas’ role in starting the war and shooting rockets indiscriminately into Israel from civilian populations.