When asked if he would “ever consider using” the US$3.8 billion military aid “as leverage to get the Israeli government to act differently,” the senator answered, “Absolutely” during an interview for the “Pod Save America” podcast published Friday.
Sanders clarified in the interview that he is himself a Jewish and not anti-Israel and believes in Israel’s right to existence.
“But I think what has happened is, in recent years under [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu you have an extreme right-wing government with many racist tendencies,” the presidential candidate argued.
He went on to explain that his vision for the U.S. role in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is "to try to finally bring peace to the Middle East and to treat the Palestinian people with a kind of respect and dignity they deserve,” the self-proclaimed socialist said adding that the U.S. “policy cannot just be pro-Israel, pro-Israel, pro-Israel. It is got to be pro-region working with all of the people, all of the countries in that area.”
Sanders has been a vocal critic of Netanyahu calling him a “racist.” In April, before the parliamentary elections, Sanders said, “I hope he loses his election."
“But the fact of the matter is that Netanyahu is a right-wing politician who, I think, is treating the Palestinians extremely unfairly,” he said during an interview in April after Netanyahu won the elections.
U.S. military aid to Israel has been significantly increasing since it was first provided in the 1980s. In September 2016, then U.S. President Barack Obama and Netanyahu signed an agreement of US$3.8 billion aid paid annually for the next 10 years.
The current U.S. President Donald Trump has also taken measures to show his pro-Israel stance. For example, moving the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem; declaring Golan Heights as Israeli territory; cutting aid of U.N.’s Palestinian refugee agency UNWRA.
Sanders, if elected president would like to change that relationship.
“We have spent trillions of dollars on the war on terror, and I, as president, would like to sit down in a room with the leadership of Saudi Arabia, with the leadership of Iran, with the leadership of the Palestinians, with the leadership of Israel, and hammer out some damn agreements, which will try to end the conflicts that exist there forever,” he said.