Just hours after skipping the annual American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) meeting on Monday, Bernie Sanders — the only Jewish presidential candidate in the race for the White House — said the U.S. government consistently turns a blind eye whenever Israel does “bad things.”
Speaking to CNN’s Anderson Cooper Monday evening, Sanders said there could be no real peace in the Middle East until the U.S. stops giving the Jewish state a free pass.
“Overwhelmingly the United States time and time again has looked aside when Israel has done some bad things,” Sanders said, calling Israel’s settlements expansion in Palestinian territories “unacceptable.”
Sanders also criticized Israel for its response to Gaza’s rocket attacks in 2014, which led to Operation Protective Edge, a two-month long bloody war.
“The kind of destruction that was wrecked on Gaza during that war was way above what needed to be done for military purposes,” Sanders said.
The Vermont senator went on to say that “there is plenty of blame to go around on both sides,” adding that Israel has the right to defend itself against terror attacks from groups like Hamas and Hizbollah.
This was not the first time Sanders has criticized Israel. Earlier on Monday, Sanders told supporters in Utah that allies need to be honest with one another, urging Israel to end the economic blockade on Gaza.
“I will work tirelessly to advance the cause of peace as a partner and as a friend to Israel,” Sanders told supporters. “But to be successful, we have also have got to be a friend not only to Israel, but to the Palestinian people.”
Asked whether voters should read into his decision to not attend the AIPAC meeting, Sanders told Cooper he wanted to be there but had prior commitments.