Presidential hopeful and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) called Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government “racist” at a CNN-hosted town hall on Monday.
Sanders agreed with an audience member who prefaced her question by saying that the senator, who is Jewish but did not include that fact in his remarks, has been an “outspoken critic” of Netanyahu.
“Yet Israel is also one of America’s most important allies in the world,” the questioner said. “Given that Prime Minister Netanyahu just won another term in office, how do you plan to maintain the strong U.S.-Israel relationship, despite those critiques?”
“Look, what I have said over and over again — and I repeat to you — and I happen to — as a young man about your age, I spent a number of months in Israel,” Sanders said. “I worked on a kibbutz for a while. I have family in Israel. I am not anti-Israel.”
“But the fact of the matter is that Netanyahu is a right-wing politician who I think is treating the Palestinian people extremely unfairly,” Sanders said, as the audience applauded.
“So, you know, what I believe — you know, and the United States gives billions of dollars in military aid to Israel,” Sanders said, and added that his stance on Israel is not “radical.”
“I just believe that the United States should deal with the Middle East on a level playing field basis,” Sanders said. “In other words, the goal must be to try to bring people together and not just support one country, which is now run by a right-wing, you know, dare I say, racist government.”
“So I am not — you know, I am 100 percent pro-Israel,” Sanders said. “Israel has every right in the world to exist and to exist in peace and security and not be subjected to terrorist attacks.”
“But the United States needs to deal not just with Israel, but with the Palestinian people, as well,” Sanders said.
Follow Penny Starr on Twitter