JERUSALEM – Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton on Sunday expressed support for Israel’s right to defend itself against Palestinian terrorism, setting herself apart from rival Bernie Sanders, who infuriated Jews and Israelis when he wrongly claimed that Israel had probably killed “more than 10,000” Palestinian civilians in the 2014 Gaza war.
“Hamas provokes Israel. They often pretend to have people in civilian garb acting as though they are civilians who are Hamas fighters,” Clinton told CNN’s State of the Union talk show on Sunday.
“When your soldiers are under attack, you have to respond,” Clinton said.
“It’s a very different undertaking for Israel to target those who are targeting them. And I think Israel has had to defend itself, has a right to defend itself.”
Speaking on the same TV program, Sanders repeated his view that Israel used “disproportionate” force during its war against Hamas two years ago.
The self-styled socialist was in hot water last week, when during a meeting with the editorial board of the New York Daily News he asserted that Israel killed more than 10,000 innocent civilians during the war.
Sanders was immediately corrected by his hosts [the death toll in Gaza was around 2,200, with Israel saying 45 percent or less were civilians, and Hamas claiming most of those killed were non-combatants], but he kept to his view that Israel’s use of force was “disproportionate.”
His comments were later slammed by the Anti Defamation League and Israeli politicians.
Sanders’ campaign issued a clarification of his comments, which was welcomed by the ADL.
In his interview with CNN on Sunday, the Democratic candidate revealed an embarrassing degree of cluelessness on matters of foreign policy.
Asked about criticism from Michael Oren, an Israeli lawmaker who previously served as Israel’s ambassador to the US from 2009 to 2013 and called Sanders’ comments a “blood libel,” Sanders responded, “Who is Mr. Oren?”
Told who Oren was, Sanders said Oren attacked him “for a statement I did not make.”
Acknowledging his error in citing the death toll, Sanders repeated his comment on the use of disproportionate force.
“Was Israel’s response disproportionate? I think it was,” the Vermont senator said.