Sanders: Israel should decline US aid if it bans lawmakers

Senator Bernie Sanders suggests Israel should not receive foreign aid from the US if it denies entry to Omar and Tlaib.

Elad Benari, Canada ,

Bernie Sanders
Bernie Sanders

Senator Bernie Sanders suggested that Israel should not receive foreign aid from the United States if it stands by its decision to deny entry to Reps. Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib.

His comments were made in an interview with MSNBC on Thursday, hours after Israel announced it would bar entry to Omar and Tlaib over their support for the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.

“But the idea that a member of the United States Congress cannot visit a nation which, by the way, we support to the tune of billions and billions of dollars, is clearly an outrage. And if Israel doesn’t want members of the United States Congress to visit their country to get a firsthand look at what’s going on — and I’ve been there many, many times — but if he doesn’t want members to visit, maybe he can respectfully decline the billions of dollars that we give to Israel,” said Sanders, who is seeking the Democratic party’s nomination for the 2020 presidential election.

Sanders also blamed Israel’s decision on President Donald Trump.

“I wish I could tell you that I am shocked but I am not. We have a president who tragically is a racist, is a xenophobe and who is a religious bigot,” said Sanders when asked about his reaction to Trump allegedly asking Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to ban the two lawmakers.

While the decision to ban Tlaib and Omar was formally announced shortly after Trump posted a comment to Twitter urging Israel not to allow the two lawmakers in, Israel’s ambassador to the US, Ron Dermer, later clarified that Trump had nothing to do with the decision.

“We were not pressured by the Trump administration to do this and this is a sovereign decision that Israel has to make,” Dermer said in a phone call with US Jewish leaders, explaining the decision was motivated by the fact that the two Muslim lawmakers support BDS.

“The leadership of our country believes that this visit was designed solely with the intention of promoting BDS and they were gonna use this visit as platform to BDS activities,” the ambassador said.

Sanders is Jewish and spent time in an Israeli kibbutz in the past, but he is known for his past statements criticizing Israel.

Just last month, Sanders said the US cannot prioritize the wants and needs of Israel over all else if it wants to help bring peace to the Middle East.

In April, he described the Israeli government as “racist” and said that “Netanyahu is a right-wing politician who I think is treating the Palestinian people extremely unfairly."

Last year, he criticized Netanyahu and his policies, saying, "As someone who believes absolutely and unequivocally in Israel's right to exist... we must say loudly and clearly, that to oppose the reactionary policies of Prime Minister Netanyahu does not make us anti-Israel."

(Arutz Sheva’s North American desk is keeping you updated until the start of Shabbat in New York. The time posted automatically on all Arutz Sheva articles, however, is Israeli time.)