Social Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders said in a recent interview with the New York Daily News that Israel must improve its relations with Palestinians in order to secure a positive relationship with the United States.
The New York senator was asked about his past criticisms of Israel, in which he said it had responded disproportionately in its war with the Hamas terrorist organization in the Gaza Strip. He answered, "I think it is fair to say that the level of attacks against civilian areas...and I do know that the Palestinians, some of them, were using civilian areas to launch missiles. Makes it very difficult. But I think most international observers would say that the attacks against Gaza were indiscriminate and that a lot of innocent people were killed who should not have been killed. Look, we are living, for better or worse, in a world of high technology, whether it's drones out there that could, you know, take your nose off, and Israel has that technology. And I think there is a general belief that, with that technology, they could have been more discriminate in terms of taking out weapons that were threatening them."
When asked his statements, which are congruent with frequent leftist appeals, that Israel should pull back from its West Bank settlements, he said:
"Here's the main point that I want to make, I lived in Israel. I have family in Israel. I believe 100% not only in Israel's right to exist, a right to exist in peace and security without having to face terrorist attacks. But from the United States' point of view, I think, long-term, we cannot ignore the reality that you have large numbers of Palestinians who are suffering now, poverty rate off the charts, unemployment off the charts, Gaza remaining a destroyed area."
"And I think that for long-term peace in that region, and God knows nobody has been successful in that for 60 years, but there are good people on both sides, and Israel is not, cannot, just simply expand when it wants to expand with new settlements. So I think the United States has got to help work with the Palestinian people as well. I think that is the path toward peace."
When he was asked if Israel can be expected to pull back its West Bank settlements, he added:
"Israel will make their own decisions. They are a government, an independent nation. But to the degree that they want us to have a positive relationship, I think they're going to have to improve their relationship with the Palestinians."
Sanders added that in order for negotiations to advance between Israel and the Palestinians, there is a need "for a start, the absolute condemnation of all terrorist attacks. The idea that in Gaza there were buildings being used to construct missiles and bombs and tunnels, that is not where foreign aid should go. Foreign aid should go to housing and schools, not the development of bombs and missiles."