US Senator and Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders said on Thursday night that the US policy must be pro-Palestinian as well as pro-Israel.

“Israel has — and I say this as somebody who lived in Israel as a kid, [I’m] proudly Jewish –Israel has the right to exist, not only to exist, but to exist in peace and security. But what US foreign policy must be about is not just being pro-Israel. We must be pro-Palestinian as well,” said Sanders at a televised debate with other Democratic presidential hopefuls.

Sanders criticized Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and branded him a “racist”.

“In my view, we must understand that right now in Israel we have leadership under Netanyahu, who has recently, as you know, been indicted for bribery, who, in my view, is a racist. What we need is a level playing field in terms of the Middle East, which addresses the terrible crisis in Gaza, where 60% or 70% of the young people are unemployed,” he said.

“So what my foreign policy will be about is human rights, is democracy, bringing people together in a peaceful way, trying to negotiate agreements, not endless wars with trillions of dollars of expenses,” added Sanders.

South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg called the situation in Gaza and elsewhere the result of the failure of the leadership of President Donald Trump, whom he accused of interfering in Israeli politics.

“This president’s refusal to lead is particularly disturbing in the case of Israel because he has infused domestic politics, making US foreign policy choices in order to effectively interfere in Israeli domestic politics, acting as though that somehow makes him pro-Israel and pro-Jewish while welcoming white nationalists,” charged Buttigieg.

Former Vice President Joe Biden said that “America's commitment to Israel’s security must be unwavering” and noted that the Obama-Biden administration provided unprecedented levels of assistance to Israel, including for Iron Dome.

At the same time, he claimed that “there is no Middle East peace without the two-state solution” and once again rejected the notion that US aid to Israel should be conditioned on it changing its behavior on certain issues.

“We have to put pressure on Israel to move toward a two-state solution, not threaten U.S. assistance to them,” said Biden.