Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, who sought the Democratic presidential nomination in the 2016 election but lost out to Hillary Clinton, on Monday criticized Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and his policies.
“As someone who believes absolutely and unequivocally in Israel’s right to exist… we must say loudly and clearly, that to oppose the reactionary policies of Prime Minister Netanyahu does not make us anti-Israel,” Sanders told the annual conference of the J Street organization.
He took issue with Israel’s response to the recent riots along the border with Gaza, claiming Israel “massively overreacted” to the protests.
“The presence of Hamas members among a crowd of tens of thousands does not justify the level of violence we saw, and frankly it’s amazing to me that anyone would find that point controversial,” Sanders said.
“I have condemned Hamas’s use of terrorist violence and will continue to do so. But that violence cannot excuse shooting at unarmed protesters, and it cannot excuse trapping almost two million people inside Gaza,” he charged.
Sanders also said that the United States “must play a much more aggressive and even-handed role in ending the Gaza blockade and helping Palestinians and Israelis build a future that works for all.” He added that, If the White House does not do that, Congress must take the lead.
“Too often, our foreign policy debate here in Washington is dominated by those whose answer to complicated international situations seems always to involve dropping more bombs, rather than engage in the hard work of diplomacy and negotiation,” said Sanders, who opined that the best way to achieve peace between Israelis and Arabs is the “two-state solution”.
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