Senator Bernie Sanders, the longest serving Independent member of Congress in American history, is a candidate for the Democratic nomination for presidency. A self described socialist, Sander is currently serving a second term in Congress representing Vermont after having won 71 percent of the vote in his district during his last election.
Here are his stances on a range of issues of importance to Israel:
Sanders supports a two-state solution as the best option to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Admittedly, Sanders has said he does not know exactly how to achieve peace in the Middle East.
“[I]f I had the magical solution to that problem, I would be in the president’s office today giving it. I don’t have it,” Sanders told Salon in June. “But clearly the goals are two-fold: number one the Palestinian people, in my view, deserve a state of their own, they deserve an economy of their own, they deserve economic support from the people of this country. And Israel needs to be able to live in security without terrorist attacks.”
The Vermont senator supports the Obama administration’s diplomatic effort to address Iran’s nuclear program. He strongly opposes any military action and does not believe that a military strike or more severe sanctions will stop Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.
With the signing of a permanent nuclear deal with Iran earlier this week, Sanders hailed the agreement as “a victory for diplomacy over saber-rattling.”
“I congratulate President Obama, Secretary [John] Kerry and the leaders of other major nations for producing a comprehensive agreement to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon,” he said in a statement, adding that the deal “could keep the United States from being drawn into another never-ending war in the Middle East.”
As for Israel itself, the senator has said that “the United States will stand by our long-standing friendship and support for the nation of Israel.”
However, when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that he would address Congress in March warning lawmakers on Iran’s nuclear program, Sanders was the first senator to boycott the speech because Netanyahu “arranged without consultation with the White House.”
Sanders accused Netanyahu of being “opportunistic” and using the speech as a way to persuade Israeli voters to support him in the then upcoming elections,
During a recent interview with NPR, the senator made clear, “I am not a great fan of President Netanyahu” and laid the blame for the deterioration of Israeli-US relations at the prime minister’s feet.
Israel’s Right to Self-Defense/Security
Sanders, like other presidential candidates, supports Israel’s right to defend itself. While he admits that Hamas fires missiles into Israel from populated areas and that their goal is to annihilate Israel, the senator has criticized Israel in the past for its response to terror.
During last summer’s war with Hamas, Sanders stated that Israel “overreacted” in its response to Palestinian missile strikes.