US Senator and former presidential candidate Bernie Sanders has said that “the US is complicit” in Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, but also added that Israel is not “the only party at fault”, in an interview with the Intercept last month.
Sanders, who has been criticised by pro-Palestinian activists for largely dismissing the Israeli issue, opened up on US foreign policy in the region, stating that the Trump administration had a responsibility to be balanced in addressing the conflict: “In terms of Israeli-Palestinian relations the United States has got to play a much more even-handed role. Clearly that is not the case right now.”
He also expressed his support for decreasing the $3 billion worth of annual US aid granted to Israel, but emphasised that it was the use of funding that was the more important element in fostering relations.
“The US funding plays a very important role, and I would love to see people in the Middle East sit down with the United States government and figure out how US aid can bring people together … So I think there is extraordinary potential for the United States to help the Palestinian people rebuild Gaza and other areas.”
This is not the first time Sanders has expressed support for Palestinians living under occupation. In February the senator spoke at a conference organised by J Street, an advocacy group aiming to advance Israeli-US interests and a two-state solution, and called for an end to the 50-year-long occupation of the West Bank.
During the Democrat presidential candidate debate in 2016 he also questioned the blind US support of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, telling fellow senator Hillary Clinton that: “There comes a time when … we are going to have to say that Netanyahu is not right all of the time.”
However, more recently Sanders has expressed his opposition to the Boycott, Divestment Sanctions (BDS) campaign of Israeli products and services, and in April, signed his name to a controversial letter attacking the UN for allegedly having an “anti-Israel agenda”.
Many senior figures within the Trump administration maintain a strong Zionist stance on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Senior adviser and son-in-law to the president Jared Kushner is a family friend of Benjamin Netanyahu, and US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, whose daughter moved permanently to Jerusalem last month, has long opposed a Palestinian state. Former US Chief Strategist Steve Bannon also lobbied for officials to adopt a tougher stance towards the Palestinian Authority and for the US embassy to be moved to Jerusalem.