Bernie Sanders
Bernie Sanders Reuters

Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) on Monday spoke before the J Street 2021 National Conference and said that the United States should be able to determine how Israel uses the aid it gives to the state, and should restrict aid in response to moves that would undermine the peace process.

"I strongly believe that we must also be willing to bring real pressure to bear, including restricting US aid, in response to moves by either side that undermine the chances for peace," Sanders said, according to Haaretz.

"The truth is that the United States gives an enormous amount of military aid to Israel. It also provides some humanitarian and economic aid to the Palestinians. It is totally appropriate for the United States to say what that aid may and may not be used for," he added.

"In terms of aid to Israel, in my view, the American people do not want to see that money being used to support policies that violate human rights and that treat the Palestinian people as second class human beings," asserted Sanders.

"When we talk about restricting aid, it’s important to note that this isn’t about singling out any one country. It’s about acting in an even-handed way in the region, and making sure that American aid works to advance American values, not undermine them," he added.

Sanders had criticism for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who, he claimed, fails to advance a better reality for Palestinian Arabs.

"For the last four years, they had a partner in the Trump administration working with them to entrench a permanent one-state reality, in which Israel controls the entire territory between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River in perpetuity, and in which the Palestinians are provided limited 'autonomy' within a disconnected series of districts," Sanders said, according to Haaretz.

"I am here to say that that is not an acceptable outcome. We must be willing to say loudly and clearly: the occupation must end," he stated.

Sanders, who is Jewish and spent time in a Kibbutz when he was younger, has repeatedly criticized the Israeli government and has asserted that it is racist.

Last year, he added his name to a letter by Democrats against Israel's plans to apply sovereignty over Judea and Samaria.

In 2019, Sanders caused an uproar when he told the J Street conference that the US should redirect its aid to Israel and give it to Gaza instead.

Despite all these, he has refuted claims that he is anti-Israel and insisted that he is simply advocating for a foreign policy “that not only protects Israel, but deals with the suffering of the Palestinian people as well.”

Sanders’ comments came after Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) addressed the same conference and sharply criticized Netanyahu, accusing him of driving Israel to a political crisis as a means to protect himself from criminal charges.

She also advocated for reducing the military aid the US provides to Israel.

"If we're serious about arresting settlement expansion and helping move he parties toward a two-state solution, then it would be irresponsible not to consider all of the tools we have at our disposal. One of those is restricting military aid from being used in the occupied territories," said Warren.

"By continuing to provide military aid without restriction, we provide no incentive for Israel to adjust course," Warren added. "In addition to destroying Palestinian lives and livelihoods, the continued de facto annexation of the West Bank is one of the greatest long term impediments to the two-state solution," she stated.

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