Leading presidential candidates spoke in Washington DC recently at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) in stark support for Israel. Senator Bernie Sanders did not attend, and his offer of sending a video message to be shown at the meeting was denied. Ted Cruz, Donald Trump, John Kasich, and even Hillary Clinton spoke at the conference, vehemently supporting Israel, which is currently under the leadership of the conservative Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. Senator Sanders spoke about Israel while campaigning in Utah, and his approach was quite different than his opponents.
Senator Sanders affirmed his support for Israel’s security, but also noted the rights of the Palestinian people needed to be taken into account as well.
“Israel is one of America’s closest allies, and we – as a nation – are committed not just to guaranteeing Israel’s survival, but also to make sure that its people have a right to live in peace and security,” he said. “To my mind, as friends – long term friends with Israel – we are obligated to speak the truth as we see it. That is what real friendship demands, especially in difficult times. Our disagreements will come and go, and we must weather them constructively. But it is important among friends to be honest and truthful about differences that we may have. America and Israel have faced great challenges together. We have supported each other, and we will continue to do just that as we face a very daunting challenge and that is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I am here to tell the American people that, if elected president, I will work tirelessly to advance the cause of peace as a partner and as a friend to Israel. But to be successful, we have also got to be a friend not only to Israel, but to the Palestinian people, where in Gaza unemployment today is 44 percent and we have there a poverty rate which is almost as high.”
Senator Sanders, who is Jewish and spent several months in Israel on Kibbutz when he was younger, gave a speech that differed significantly from any other presidential candidate’s. Despite how different it was, media outlets gave very little attention to the speech given by Senator Sanders, while Hillary Clinton’s speech garnered severe criticism from progressives and Palestinians who took offense to the imperialistic and military hawkish tone she took in line with the Republican candidates.
“As observers noted, as she ran down the list of ‘evolving threats,’ the former U.S. secretary of state resorted to common neoconservative talking points,” wrote Lauren McCauley in Common Dreams.
“Hillary Clinton’s AIPAC Speech was a symphony of craven, delusional pandering,” read a headline for an article on Slate.
The PBS Frontline documentary, “Netanyahu at War” provides an informative backdrop on the modern relations between the United States and Israel. Based on the speeches each presidential candidate gave on U.S.-Israel relations, Senator Bernie Sanders is the only presidential candidate who won’t worsen the violence and conflict in the region, and who is devoted to taking steps towards peace, rather than using Israel as a tool to gain influence and power in the region.
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