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Report: How America’s First Jewish President Could Be Tougher on Israel Than His Predecessors How America’s First Jewish President Could B...
If Bernie Sanders were elected president, he would not only become the first Jew to lead the White House. He would likely become the first U.S. leader in more than forty years to declare Israel’s construction of Jewish settlements on Palestinian lands illegal.
Sanders’s stance on Israeli settlements may be largely consistent with international law, scores of U.N. Security Council resolutions, and the policies of some past U.S. administrations. But it marks a sharp rhetorical departure from previous U.S. presidents who have sidestepped questions about the legality of Israel’s decades-long drive to build Jewish settlements on Arab lands even as they criticized them as an illegitimate obstacle to peace between Israelis and Palestinians.
When it comes to the politically fraught question of Middle East diplomacy, Sanders has shown a willingness to puncture political taboos. The 78-year-old Vermont senator, who lived in an Israeli kibbutz in the early 1960s, frequently refers to Israel as an “occupying power”—a moniker Israel’s government and its allies in the White House and Congress consider a slur. He has made clear that he would be prepared to condition the $3.8 billion in annual U.S. military aid to Israel on its treatment of Palestinians, a position that is out of step with Republicans and the Democratic congressional leadership. Sanders referred to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in December 2019 as a “racist.”
On Sunday, Sanders announced that he would not attend the annual American Israel Public Affairs Committee conference, a traditional venue for Democratic and Republican political candidates, expressing concern about the platform it “provides for leaders who express bigotry and oppose basic Palestinian rights.” The remarks drew a barrage of criticism from Jewish American organizations and commentators, who characterized it as an “odious,” “offensive” “smear.”
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