US Presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders received thunderous applause during a Democrat candidate debate following remarks that he would get tougher on Israel and champion Palestinian dignity if he became president.
Sanders, who is one of the front-runners to take on President Donald Trump in next year’s election, voiced his support for the Palestinians in a question about Saudi Arabia. Quizzed by the moderator as to whether the candidates would take a tougher stance on Saudi Arabia and its human rights abuse, the Vermont senator suggested that human rights abuse needed to be addressed across the Middle East and not just in America’s closest ally in the Gulf.
All the candidates expressed that they would get tougher on Saudi without mentioning other countries in the region. Sanders, who has condemned Washington’s close ties with Riyadh on many occasions, said 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.
He went on to call the situation in the Gaza Strip, which has been under a brutal Israeli siege since 2007, as “unsustainable”.
Support for the just cause of the Palestinians has become a popular message in Sander’s campaign trail. In October he said that some of the $3 billion that Washington gives to Israel in military aid every year should be given to the Palestinians as humanitarian aid for the Gaza Strip. Hard right politicians in Israel have met his strong backing of the Palestinians with hostility.
Sander’s campaign message is seen as evidence of splits within the Democrats on the issue of Israel. His running mate Elizabeth Warren has also said that she would halt aid to Israel if it did not stop building settlements. A number of commentators have suggested that this reflects a growing trend amongst America’s new generation, including young Jewish voters, who see a yawning chasm between their progressive liberal values and policies of a country that has denied 12 million people their universally recognised right to self-determination by illegally entrenching its occupation.