Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders said Monday that part of the annual US$3.8 billion United States military aid to Israel should instead go toward humanitarian relief in Gaza.
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Speaking at the annual J Street conference - an event organized by pro-Israel, pro-two state solution advocates -, the senator pledged to use the assistance as leverage to get Israel to halt settlements and start peace negotiations with the Palestinians, an idea that has gained ground among some Democrats.
“I would use the leverage of US$3.8 billion,” he said, adding that “it is a lot of money, and we cannot give it carte blanche to the Israeli government, or for that matter to any government at all. We have a right to demand respect for human rights and democracy.”
The 2020 hopeful also said he would condition U.S. aid to Israel on taking steps to reach a two-state solution and improve the conditions of Palestinians living in the blockaded Gaza Strip.
“My solution is, to Israel, if you want military aid you’re going to have to fundamentally change your relationship to the people of Gaza,” Sanders stated.
While some Democrats have set Israel’s plans for annexing the West Bank as the red line for conditioning the aid, Sanders was the first candidate to propose giving the money to Gaza instead.
“All it says is that we need an even-hand proposal for both people. What is going on in Gaza right now, for example, is absolutely inhumane. It is unacceptable. It is unsustainable.”
Sanders also highlighted his Jewish heritage and identity while saying Netanyahu’s administration is racist.
“I am very proud to be Jewish and look forward to being the first Jewish president...but what I also believe the Palestinian people have a right to live in peace and security as well. It is not anti-Semitism to say that Netanyahu’s government has been racist.”