Bernie Sanders slams 'racist' Netanyahu, calls for US policy to be 'pro-Palestinian'

Bernie Sanders slams 'racist' Netanyahu, calls for US policy to be 'pro-Palestinian'
Democratic presidential candidates were united in their criticism of Trump’s approach to Israel-Palestine and China’s persecution of Muslims in Thursday’s debate.
3 min read
20 December, 2019
Bernie Sanders has been the most outspoken critic of Israel during the campaign [Getty]
US Senator and presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders launched a scathing attack on the Israeli government and called for a total overhaul of policy towards the country, saying it must be pro-Palestine as well as pro-Israel.

Sanders, perceived as the leftist frontrunner in the race for the Democratic nomination, spoke out in a televised debate on Thursday, in which candidates locked horns over areas of foreign policy.

The Jewish senator has been the most critical of Israel in the campaign, previously vowing to end unconditional US support for Israel and promising to redirect some of the annual $3.8 billion in aid to humanitarian relief in Gaza.

"Israel has - and I say this as somebody who lived in Israel as a kid, proudly Jewish - Israel has the right not only to exist, but to exist in peace and security," Sanders said at the debate in Los Angeles on Thursday evening.

Comment: The presidential candidates open to leveraging US support for Israel

"But what US foreign policy must be about is not just being pro-Israel. We must be pro-Palestinian as well," he added.

Sanders also lambasted Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over his criminal indictment and racism against Palestinians, saying: "We must understand that right now in Israel we have leadership under Netanyahu, who has recently, as you know, been indicted for bribery, who, in my view, is a racist."

"What we need is a level playing field in terms of the Middle East, which addresses the terrible crisis in Gaza, where 60 or 70 percent of the young people are unemployed," he added.

He proposed his foreign policy would centre on "human rights, democracy, bringing people together in a peaceful way, trying to negotiate agreements, not endless wars with trillions of dollars of expenses."

Pete Buttigieg, Mayor of South Bend, Indiana, also pointed the finger at Trump for the deterioration of the situation in Gaza, accusing the president of interfering in Israeli politics.

"This president's refusal to lead is particularly disturbing in the case of Israel because he has infused domestic politics, making US foreign policy choices in order to effectively interfere in Israeli domestic politics, acting as though that somehow makes him pro-Israel and pro-Jewish while welcoming white nationalists," he said.

Trump slammed for silence over China

The candidates unanimously slammed the Trump administration's approach to China, both in its lack of support for pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong and its inaction over the persecution of millions of Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang province.

Comment: Most Americans want a more progressive foreign policy, but they're unlikely to get it

Buttigieg, along with campaign frontrunner Joe Biden, pledged a more critical stance towards China over these human rights issues.

The Indiana mayor attacked Trump for "trashing American values" by letting China know "his silence can be purchased" on the issues Uighur persecution and the Hong Kong protests.

Former Vice President Biden went further to argue that 60 percent of US seapower should be moved to the region "to let [...] the Chinese understand that they're not going to go any further. We are going to be there to protect other folks."

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